Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "The trial and death of Socrates : being the Euthyphron, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Plato"

See other formats







*O 5' dve^Tcurroj /3toj ov /Siwrds cu>0p(j!nrip 
' An unexamined life is not worth living.' 

(PLATO, Apol. 38 A. ) 









[ All rights reserved.] 

First Edition printed 1880 

Second Edition, Golden Treasury Series, 1886 

Reprinted 1887, 1888, 1890, 1891, 1892, March and September 1895 


THIS book, which is intended principally for 
the large and increasing class of readers who 
wish to learn something of the masterpieces 
of Greek literature, and who cannot easily 
read them in Greek, was originally published 
by Messrs. Macmillan in a different form. 
Since its first appearance it has been revised 
and corrected throughout, and largely re- 
written. The chief part of the Introduction 
is new. It is not intended to be a general 
essay on Socrates, but only an attempt to 
explain and illustrate such points in his life 
and teaching as are referred to in these 
dialogues, which, taken by themselves, con- 
tain Plato's description of his great master's 
life, and work, and death. 

The books which were most useful to me 
in writing it are Professor Zeller's Socrates and 
the Socratic Schools, and the edition of the 


Apology by the late Rev. James Riddell, 
published after his death by the delegates 
of the Clarendon Press. His account of 
Socrates is singularly striking. I found the 
very exact and literal translation of the Phcedo 
into colloquial English by the late Mr. E. M. 
Cope often very useful in revising that dia- 
logue. I have also to thank various friends 
for the patience with which they have looked 
over parts of my work in manuscript, and 
for the many valuable hints and suggestions 
which they have given me. 

As a rule I have used the text of the 
Zurich editors. Twice or thrice, in the Phczdo, 
I have taken a reading from the text of 
Schanz : but it seems to me that what makes 
his edition valuable is its apparatus criticus 
rather than its text. 

F. J. C. 












. 103 


THESE dialogues contain a unique picture of 
Socrates in the closing scenes of his life, his 
trial, his imprisonment, and his death. And 
they contain a description also of that unflagging 
search after truth, that persistent and merciless 
examination and sifting of men who were wise 
only in their own conceit, to which his latter 
years were devoted. Within these limits he 
is the most familiar figure of ancient Greek 
history. No one else stands out before us with 
so individual and distinct a personality of his 
own. Of the rest of Socrates' life, however, we 
are almost completely ignorant. All that we 
know of it consists of a few scattered and 
isolated facts, most of which are referred to in 
these dialogues. A considerable number of 
stories are told about him by late writers : but 
to scarcely any of them can credit be given. 
Plato and Xenophon are almost the only trust- 
worthy authorities about him who remain ; and 
they describe him almost altogether as an old 
man. The earlier part of his life is to us 
scarcely more than a blank. 

Socrates was born very shortly before the 


year 469 B.C. 1 His father, Sophroniscus, was 
a sculptor : his mother, Phaenarete, a midwife. 
Nothing definite is known of his moral and 
intellectual development. There is no specific 
record of him at all until he served at the siege 
of Potidaea (432 8.0429 B.c.) when he was 
nearly forty years old. All that we can say is 
that his youth and manhood were passed in the 
most splendid period of Athenian or Greek his- 
tory. 2 It was the time of that wonderful outburst 
of genius in art, and literature, and thought, 
and statesmanship, which was so sudden and 
yet so unique. Athens was full of the keenest 
intellectual and political activity. Among her 
citizens between the years 460 B.C. and 420 
B.C. were men who in poetry, in history, in 
sculpture, in architecture, are our masters still. 
^Eschylus' great Trilogy was brought out in the 
year 458 B.C., and the poet died two years later, 
when Socrates was about fifteen years old. 
Sophocles was born in 495 B.C., Euripides in 
481 B.C. They both died about 406 B.C., some 
seven years before Socrates. Pheidias, the 
great sculptor, the artist of the Elgin marbles, 
which are now in the British Museum, died in 
432 B.C. Pericles, the supreme statesman and 
orator, 3 whose name marks an epoch in the 
history of civilisation, died in 429 B.C. Thucy- 
dides, the historian, whose history is ' a posses- 

1 Apol. 17 D. Crito, 52 E. 

3 See the account of this period given by Professor 
Curtius in his History of Greece, Bk. iii. ch. 3. 
3 6 ir&vv. Xen. Mem. iii. 5. i. 


sion for all ages,' 1 was born in 471 B.C., about 
the same time as Socrates, and died probably 
between 401 B.C. and 395 B.C. Ictinus, the 
architect, completed the Parthenon in 438 B.C. 
There have never been finer instruments of 
culture than the art and poetry and thought of 
such men as these. Socrates, who in 420 B.C. 
was about fifty years old, was contemporary 
with them all. He must have known and con- 
versed with some of them : for Athens was not 
very large, 2 and the Athenians spent almost 
the whole of their day in public. To live in 
such a city was in itself no mean training for 
a man, though he might not be conscious of it. 
The great object of Pericles' policy had been 
to make Athens the acknowledged intellectual 
capital and centre of Greece, ' the Prytaneum 
of all Greek wisdom.' 3 Socrates himself speaks 
with pride in the Apology of her renown for ' wis- 
dom and power of mind. ' 4 And Athens gave her 
citizens another kind of training also, through 
her political institutions. From having been 
the head of the confederacy of Delos, she had 
grown to be an Imperial, or, as her enemies 

1 Krfjfj.0. es dei. Thucyd. i. 22, 5. 

2 In 441 B.C. there was a scrutiny of citizenship, and 
some 5000 men who were unable to prove their descent 
from Athenian parents on both sides were disfranchised. 
The qualified citizens were found to number a little 
over 14,000. 

3 Protagoras, 337 D. Pericles' funeral oration (Thucyd. 
ii. 35-46) deserves careful study in this connection. It 
is a statement of the Athenian ideal in the best days of 
Athens. 4 Apol. 29 D. 



called her, a tyrant city. She was the mistress 
of a great empire, ruled and administered by 
law. The Sovereign Power in the State was 
the Assembly, of which every citizen, not under 
disability, was a member, and at which attend- 
ance was by law compulsory. There was 
no representative government, no intervening 
responsibility of ministers. The Sovereign 
people in their Assembly directly administered 
the Athenian empire. Each individual citizen 
was thus brought every day into immediate 
contact with matters of Imperial importance. 
His political powers and responsibilities were 
very great. He was accustomed to hear ques- 
tions of domestic administration, of legislation, 
of peace and war, of alliances, of foreign and 
colonial policy, keenly and ably argued on 
either side. He was accustomed to hear argu- 
ments on one side of a question attacked and 
dissected and answered by opponents with the 
greatest acuteness and pertinacity. He himself 
had to examine, weigh, and decide between 
rival arguments. The Athenian judicial system 
gave the same kind of training in another 
direction by its juries, on which every citizen 
was liable to be selected by lot to serve. The 
result was to create at Athens an extremely 
high level of general intelligence, such as cannot 
be looked for in a modern state. And it may 
well be that in the debates of the Assembly 
and the discussions of the courts of law Socrates 
first became aware of the necessity of sifting 
and examining plausible arguments. 


Such, shortly, were the influences under 
which Socrates passed the first fifty years of 
his life. It is evident that they were most 
powerful and efficient as instruments of educa- 
tion, in the wider sense of that word. Very 
little evidence remains of the formal training 
which he received, or of the nature and extent. 
of his positive knowledge : and the history of 
his intellectual development is practically a 
matter of pure conjecture. As a boy he received 
the usual Athenian liberal education in music 
and gymnastic, 1 an education, that is to say, 
mental and physical. He was fond of quoting 
from the existing Greek literature, and he seems 
to have been familiar with it, especially with 
Homer. He is represented by Xenophon as 
repeating Prodicus' fable of the choice of 
Heracles at length. 2 He says that he was in 
the habit of studying with his friends ' the 
treasures which the wise men of old have left 
us in their books :' 3 collections, that is, of the 
short and pithy sayings of the seven sages, such 
as 'know thyself; a saying, it maybe noticed, 
which lay at the root of his whole teaching. 
And he had some knowledge of mathematics, 
and of science, as it existed in those days. He 
understood something of astronomy and of 

1 Crito, 50 D. , and for an account of such an educa- 
tion see Protagoras, 325 E. seq. , and Rep. ii. 376 E. to 
412 A., an account of Plato's ideal reformed system of 

- Xen. Mem. ii. i. 21. 

3 Xen. Mem. i. 6. 14 ; cf. Protag. 343 A. 


advanced geometry : l and he was acquainted 
with certain, at any rate, of the theories of his 
predecessors in philosophy, the Physical or 
Cosmical philosophers, such as Heraclitus and 
Parmenides, and, especially, with those of 
Anaxagoras. 2 But there is no trustworthy 
evidence which enables us to go beyond the 
bare fact that he had such knowledge. We 
cannot tell whether he ever studied Physical 
Philosophy seriously, or from whom, or how, 
or even, certainly, when, he learnt what he 
knew about it. It is perhaps most likely that 
his mathematical and scientific studies are to be 
assigned to the earlier period of his life. There 
is a passage in the Phcedo in which he says 
(or rather is made to say) that in his youth he 
had had a passion for the study of Nature. 3 
The historical value of this passage, however, 
which Occurs in the philosophical or Platonic 
part of the dialogue, is very doubtful. Socrates 
is represented as passing on from the study of 
Nature to the doctrine of Ideas, a doctrine 
which was put forward for the first time by 
Plato after his death, and which he never 
heard of. The statement must be taken for 
what it is worth. The fact that Aristophanes 
in the Clouds (423 B.C.) represents Socrates as 
a natural philosopher, who teaches his pupils, 
among other things, astronomy and geometry, 
proves nothing. Aristophanes' misrepresenta- 

1 Xen. Mem. iv. 7. 3. 5. Meno, 82, seq. 

2 Xen. Mem. i. i. 14. Apol. 26 D. Phcedo, 96 A. 

3 Phcedo, 96 A. 


tions about Socrates are so gross that his unsup- 
ported testimony deserves no credit : and there 
is absolutely no evidence to confirm the state- 
ment that Socrates ever taught Natural Science. 
It is quite certain that latterly he refused to 
have anything to do with such speculations. 1 
He admitted Natural Science only in so far as 
it is practically useful, in the way in which 
astronomy is useful to a sailor, or geometry to 
a land-surveyor. 2 Natural philosophers, he 
says, are like madmen : their conclusions are 
hopelessly contradictory, and their science un- 
productive, impossible, and impious ; for the 
gods are not pleased with those who seek to 
discover what they do not wish to reveal. The 
time which is wasted on such subjects might 
be much more profitably employed in the pur- 
suit of useful knowledge. 3 

All then that we can say of the first forty 
years of Socrates' life, consists of general 
statements like these. During these years 
there is no specific record of him. Between 
432 B.C. and 429 B.C. he served as a common 
soldier at the siege of Potidasa, an Athenian 
dependency which had revolted, and surpassed 
every one in his powers of enduring hunger, 
thirst, and cold, and all the hardships of a 
severe Thracian winter. At this siege we hear 
of him for the first time in connection with 
Alcibiades, whose life he saved in a skirmish, 

1 Apol. 19 C. D. Xen. Mem. i. i. n. 

2 Xen. Mem. iv. 7. 2. 4. 

3 Xen. Mem. \. i. 13. 15 ; iv, 7. 3. 5. 6. 


and to whom he eagerly relinquished the prize 
of valour. In 431 B.C. the Peloponnesian War 
broke out, and in 424 B.C. the Athenians were 
disastrously defeated and routed by the Thebans 
at the battle of Delium. Socrates and Laches 
were among the few who did not yield to panic. 
They retreated together steadily, and the 
resolute bearing of Socrates was conspicuous to 
friend and foe alike. Had all the Athenians 
behaved as he did, says Laches, in the dialogue 
of that name, the defeat would have been a 
victory. 1 Socrates fought bravely a third time 
at the battle of Amphipolis [422 B.C.] against 
the Peloponnesian forces, in which the com- 
manders on both sides, Cleon and Brasidas, 
were killed : but there is no record of his 
specific services on that occasion. 

About the same time that Socrates was 
displaying conspicuous courage in the cause of 
Athens at Delium and Amphipolis, Aristo- 
phanes was holding him up to hatred, contempt, 
and ridicule in the comedy of the Clouds. The 
Clouds was first acted in 423 B.C., the year 
between the battles of Delium and Amphipolis, 
and was afterwards recast in the form in which 
we have it. It was a fierce and bitter attack 
on what Aristophanes, a staunch " laudato? 
temporis acti Se puero" considered the corrup- 
tion and degeneracy of the age. Since the 
middle of the Fifth Century B.C. a new intel- 
lectual movement, in which the Sophists were 
the most prominent figures, had set in. Men 
1 Laches, 181 B. Sympos. 219 E. 


had begun to examine and to call in question 
the old-fashioned commonplaces of morality and 
religion. Independent thought and individual 
judgment were coming to be substituted for im- 
memorial tradition and authority. Aristophanes 
hated the spirit of the age with his whole soul. 
It appeared to him to be impious and immoral. 
He looked back with unmixed regret to the 
simplicity of ancient manners, to the glories of 
Athens in the Persian wars, to the men of 
Marathon who obeyed orders without discuss- 
ing them, and ' only knew how to call for their 
barley-cake, and sing yo-ho ! ' l The Clouds 
is his protest against the immorality of free 
thought and the Sophists. He chose Socrates 
for his central figure, chiefly, no doubt on 
account of Socrates' well-known and strange 
personal appearance. The grotesque ugliness, 
and flat nose, and prominent eyes, and Silenus- 
like face, and shabby dress, might be seen every 
day in the streets, and were familiar to every 
Athenian. Aristophanes cared little prob- 
ably he did not take the trouble to find out 
that Socrates' whole life was spent in fighting 
against the Sophists. It was enough for him 
that Socrates did not accept the traditional 
beliefs, 2 and was a good centre-piece for a 
comedy. The account of the Clouds given in 
the Apology 3 is substantially correct. There is 
a caricature of a natural philosopher, and then 
a caricature of a Sophist. Roll the two together, 

1 Aristoph. Frogs, 1071. - Cf. Euth. 6. A. 

^ Apol. z8 B. C., 19 C. 


and we have Aristophanes' picture of Socrates. 
Socrates is described as a miserable recluse, 
and is made to talk a great deal of very absurd 
and very amusing nonsense about ' Physics.' 
He announces that Zeus has been dethroned, 
and that Rotation reigns in his stead. 

Aivos /3(wiX(vei TOV At" e^cA^Aa/cws. 1 

The new divinities are Air, which holds the 
earth suspended, and Ether, and the Clouds, 
and the Tongue people always think 'that 
natural philosophers do not believe in the 
gods.' 2 He professes to have Belial's power to 
'make the worse Appear the better reason;' 3 
and with it he helps a debtor to swindle his 
creditors by means of the most paltry quibbles. 
Under his tuition the son learns to beat his 
father, and threatens to beat his mother ; and 
justifies himself on the ground that it is 
merely a matter of convention that the father 
has the right of beating his son. In the con- 
cluding lines of the play the chorus say that 
Socrates' chief crime is that he has sinned 
against the gods with his eyes open. The 
Natural Philosopher was unpopular at Athens 
on religious grounds : he was associated with 
atheism. The Sophist was unpopular on 
moral grounds : he was supposed to corrupt 
young men, to make falsehood plausible, to be 
' a clever fellow who could make other people 
clever too.' 4 The natural philosopher was not 

1 Clouds, 828. 380. 2 Apol. 18 C. 

3 Milton, Par. Lost, ii. 113. 4 Euth. 3 D. 


a Sophist, and the Sophist was not a natural 
philosopher. Aristophanes mixes them up to- 
gether, and ascribes the sins of both of them 
to Socrates. The Clouds, it is needless to say, 
is a gross and absurd libel from beginning to 
end i 1 but Aristophanes hit the popular con- 
ception. The charges which he made in 423 
B.C. stuck to Socrates to the end of his life. 
They are exactly the charges made by popular 
prejudice, against which Socrates defends him- 
self in the first ten chapters of the Apology, and 
which he says have been so long ' in the air.' 
He formulates them as follows : " Socrates is an 
evil-doer who busies himself with investigating 
things beneath the earth and in the sky, and 
who makes the worse appear the better 
reason, and who teaches others these same 
things." 2 If we allow for the exaggerations of 
a burlesque, the Clouds is not a bad com- 

1 Crete's argument {Hist, of Greece, vol. vi. p. 260) 
that if we reject Aristophanes' evidence as against 
Socrates, we must reject it as against Cleon, ignores an 
essential distinction between the two cases. Aristo- 
phanes, like the majority of his countrymen, was totally 
incapable of understanding or fathoming Socrates' 
character. It was utterly strange and unintelligible to 
him. But he could understand the character of an 
ordinary man of the world and politician, like Cleon, 
perfectly well. His portraits of both Socrates and Cleon 
are broad caricatures ; and no absolute rule can be laid 
down for determining the historical value of a caricature. 
In each case the value depends on circumstances. 

2 Apol. 19 B. He was also accused at his trial of 
making children undutiful to their parents. Xen. Mem. 
\. 2. 49. Cf. Clouds, 1322 seq. 


mentary on the beginning of the Apology. 
And it establishes a definite and important 
historical fact namely, that as early as 423 
B.C. Socrates' system of cross-examination had 
made him a marked man. 

For sixteen years after the battle of Amphi- 
polis we hear nothing of Socrates. The next 
events in his life, of which there is a specific 
record, are those narrated by himself in the 
twentieth chapter of the Apology. They 
illustrate, as he meant them to illustrate, his 
invincible moral courage. They show, as he 
intended that they should, that there was no 
power on earth, whether it were an angry 
popular assembly, or a murdering oligarchy, 
which could force him to do wrong. In 406 
B.c. the Athenian fleet defeated the Lacedae- 
monians at the battle of Arginusae, so called 
from some small islands off the south-east 
point of Lesbos. After the battle the Athenian 
commanders omitted to recover the bodies of 
their dead, and to save the living from off their 
disabled triremes. The Athenians at home, 
on hearing of this, were furious. The due 
performance of funeral rites was a very sacred 
duty with the Greeks ; 1 and many citizens 
mourned for friends and relatives who had 
been left to drown. The commanders were 
immediately recalled, and an assembly was 
held in which they were accused of neglect of 
duty. They defended themselves by saying 
that they had ordered certain inferior officers 
1 Cf. the Antigone of Sophocles. 


(amongst others, their accuser Theramenes) to 
perform the duty, but that a storm had come 
on which had rendered the performance impos- 
sible. The debate was adjourned, and it was 
resolved that the Senate should decide in what 
way the commanders should be tried. The 
Senate resolved that the Athenian people, 
having heard the accusation and the defence, 
should proceed to vote forthwith for the 
acquittal or condemnation of the eight com- 
manders collectively. The resolution was 
grossly unjust, and it was illegal. It sub- 
stituted a popular vote for a fair and formal 
trial. And it contravened one of the laws of 
Athens, which provided that at every trial a 
separate verdict should be found in the case of 
each person accused. 

Socrates was at that time a member of the 
Senate, the only office that he ever filled. The 
Senate was composed of five hundred citizens, 
elected by lot, fifty from each of the ten tribes, 
and holding office for one year. The members 
of each tribe held the Prytany, that is, were 
responsible for the conduct of business, for 
thirty-five days at a time, and ten out of the 
fifty were proedri or presidents every seven 
days in succession. Every bill or motion was 
examined by the proedri before it was sub- 
mitted to the Assembly, to see if it were in 
accordance with law : if it was not, it was 
quashed : one of the proedri presided over 
the Senate and the Assembly each day, and 
for one day only : he was called the Epistates : 


it was his duty to put the question to the vote. 
In short, he was the Speaker. 

These details are necessary for the under- 
standing of the passage in the Apology. On 
the day on which it was proposed to take a 
collective vote on the acquittal or condemna- 
tion of the eight commanders, Socrates was 
Epistates. The proposal was, as we have seen, 
illegal : but the people were furious against the 
accused, and it was a very popular one. Some 
of the proedri opposed it before it was sub- 
mitted to the Assembly, on the ground of its 
illegality ; but they were silenced by threats 
and subsided. Socrates alone refused to give 
way. He would not put a question, which he 
knew to be illegal, to the vote. Threats of 
suspension and arrest, the clamour of an angry 
people, the fear of imprisonment or death, could 
not move him. ' I thought it my duty to face 
the danger out in the cause of law and justice, 
and not to be an accomplice in your unjust 
proposal.' 1 But his authority lasted only for 
a day ; the proceedings were adjourned, a 
more pliant Epistates succeeded him, and the 
generals were condemned and executed. 

Two years later Socrates again showed by 
his conduct that he would endure anything 
rather than do wrong. In 404 B.C. Athens 
was captured by the Lacedaemonian forces, and 
the long walls were thrown down. 2 The great 

1 Apol. 32 B. C. Cf. Mr. Riddell's note, ad loc. 
Xen. Mem. i. i. 18. 

2 See the description at the beginning of Mr. Brown- 
ing's Aristophanes' Apology. 


Athenian democracy was destroyed, and an 
oligarchy of thirty set up in its place by Critias 
(who in former days had been much in Socrates' 
company) with the help of the Spartan general 
Lysander. The rule of the Thirty lasted for 
rather less than a year : in the spring of 403 
B.C. the democracy was restored. The reign of 
Critias and his friends was a Reign of Terror. 
Political opponents and private enemies were 
murdered as a matter of course. So were 
respectable citizens, and wealthy citizens for 
the sake of their wealth. All kinds of men 
were used as assassins, for the oligarchs wished 
to implicate as many as possible in their crimes. 
With this object they sent for Socrates and 
four others to the Council Chamber, a building 
where formerly the Prytanies, and now they 
themselves, took their meals and sacrificed, and 
ordered them to bring one Leon over from 
Salamis to Athens, to be murdered. The other 
four feared to disobey an order, disobedience 
to which probably meant death. They went 
over to Salamis, and brought Leon back with 
them. Socrates disregarded the order and the 
danger, and went home. ' I showed,' he says, 
' not by mere words, but by my actions, that I 
did not care a straw for death : but that I did 
care very much indeed about doing wrong.' l 
He had previously incurred the anger of Critias 
and the other oligarchs by publicly condemning 
their political murders in language which caused 
them to send for him, and forbid him to 
1 Apol. 32 D. 


converse with young men as he was accustomed 
to do, and to threaten him with death. 1 

There are two events in the life of Socrates 
to which no date can be assigned. The first 
of them is his marriage with Xanthippe. By 
her he had three sons, Lamprocles, Sophron- 
iscus, and Menexenus. The two latter are 
called ' children ' in the Apology, which was 
delivered in 399 B.C., and the former /*et- 
pa.Kiov -t]8->) ; 2 a phrase which implies that he 
was some fifteen years old. The name 
Xanthippe has come to mean a shrew. Her 
son Lamprocles found her bitter tongue and 
her violent temper intolerable, and his father 
told him that she meant all her harsh- 
ness for his good, and read him a lecture on 
filial duty. 3 The parting between Socrates 
and Xanthippe, as described in the Phado, is 
not marked by any great tenderness. His last 
day was spent, not with his wife, but with his 
friends, and she was not present at his death. 
No trustworthy details of his married life have 
been preserved ; but there is a consensus of 
testimony by late authors that it was not happy. 
Indeed the strong probability is that he had no 
home life at all. 

Again, no date can be assigned to the answer 
of the Delphic oracle, spoken of in the fifth 
chapter of the Apology. There it is said that 
Chaerephon went to Delphi and asked if fthere 
was any man who was wiser than Socrates, and 

1 Xen. Mem, i. z. 32, seq. " Apol. 34 D. 

3 Xen. Mem. ii. 2. 


the priestess answered that there was no man. 
Socrates offers to prove the truth of his state- 
ment by the evidence of Chaerephon's brother, 
Chserephon himself being dead. In the next 
chapter he represents the duty of testing the 
oracle as the motive of that unceasing examina- 
tion of men which is described in the Apology, 
and which gained him so much hatred. He 
says that he thought himself bound to sift 
every one whom he met, in order that the truth 
of the oracle might be thoroughly tested and 
proved. There is no reason to doubt that the 
answer of the oracle was actually given ; but, 
as Zeller observes, Socrates must have been a 
well-known and marked man before Chaerephon 
could have asked his question, or the oracle 
have given such an answer. ' It may have 
done a similar service to Socrates as (sic) his 
doctor's degree did to Luther, assuring him of 
his inward call ; but it had just as little to do 
with making him a philosophical reformer as 
the doctor's degree had with making Luther a 
religious reformer.' 1 The use which he makes 
of the oracle, therefore, must be regarded as 
' a device of a semi-rhetorical character under 
cover of which he was enabled to avoid an 
avowal of the real purpose which had animated 
him in his tour of examination.'- His real 
purpose was not to test the truth of the Delphic 
oracle. It was to expose the hollowness of 

1 Zeller's Socrates and the Socratic Schools, translated 
by the Rev. O. J. Reichel, sd edition, p. 60, note 3. 

2 Riddell, p. xxiv. 


what passed for knowledge, and to substitute, 
or rather, to lay the foundations of true and 
scientific knowledge. Such an explanation of 
his mission would scarcely have been under- 
stood, and it would certainly have offended the 
judges deeply. But he never hesitates or 
scruples to avow the original cause of his 
examination of men. He regarded it as a 
duty undertaken in obedience to the command 
of God. ' God has commanded me to examine 
men,' he says, ' in oracles, and in dreams, and 
in every way in which His will was ever declared 
to man. ' l ( I cannot hold my peace, for that 
would be to disobey God.' 2 The Apology is full 
of such passages. With this belief he did not 
shrink from the unpopularity and hatred which a 
man, who exposes the ignorance of persons who 
imagine themselves to be wise, when they are 
not wise, is sure to incur. At what time he 
became convinced of the hollowness of what 
then commonly passed for knowledge, and be- 
gan to examine men, and to make them give an 
account of their words, cannot be exactly deter- 
mined, any more than the date of the oracle. 
We cannot tell to how many years of his life 
the account of it given in the Apology applies. 
All that is certain is that, as early as 423 B.C., 
twenty-four years before his death, he was a 
sufficiently conspicuous man for Aristophanes 
to select him as the type and representative of 
the new school, and to parody his famous 
Elenchos. There is, therefore, no reason to 
1 Apol. 33 C. 2 Apol. 37 E. See 29 D. ; 30 B. 


doubt that he must have begun to cross-exa- 
mine men before 423 B.C. He had begun to 
examine himself as early as the siege of Potidaea 
(432 B.C.-429 B.C.). l But when he once set about 
this work he devoted himself to it entirely. He 
was a strange contrast to professional teachers 
like the Sophists. He took no pay : he had 
no classes : he taught no positive knowledge. 
But his whole life was spent in examining 
himself and others. He was ' the great cross- 
examiner.' He was ready to question and talk 
to any one who would listen. His life and con- 
versation were absolutely public. He conversed 
now with men like Alcibiades, or Gorgias, or 
Protagoras, and then with a common mechanic. 
In the morning he was to be seen in the 
promenades and the gymnasia : when the 
Agora was filling, he was there : he was to 
be found wherever he thought that he should 
meet most people. 2 He scarcely ever went 
away from the city. 3 ' I am a lover of know- 
ledge,' he says in the PJuzdrusf ' and in the 
city I can learn from men, but the fields and 
the trees can teach me nothing.' He gave his 
life wholly and entirely to the service of God, 
neglecting his private affairs, until he came to 
be in very great poverty. 5 A mina of silver 6 
is all that he can offer for his life at the trial. 
He formed no school, but there grew up round 

1 Symp. 220 C. See post, p. xxxii. 

2 Xen. Mem. i. i. 10. 3 Crito, 52 B. 
4 Phcedrus, 230 D. 5 Apol. 23 C. 
6 Equivalent then to about ,4 : i : 3. 



him a circle of admiring friends, united, not by 
any community of doctrines, but by love for 
their great master, with whom he seems not 
unfrequently to have had common meals. 1 

Plato has left a most striking description of 
Socrates in the Symposium? put into the mouth 
of Alcibiades. I quote it almost at length from 
Shelley's translation, which, though not always 
correct, is graceful : ' I will begin the praise 
of Socrates by comparing him to a certain 
statue. Perhaps he will think that this statue 
is introduced for the sake of ridicule, but I 
assure you it is necessary for the illustration of 
truth. I assert, then, that Socrates is exactly 
like those Silenuses that sit in the sculptor's 
shops, and which are holding carved flutes or 
pipes, but which when divided in two are found 
to contain the images of the gods. I assert 
that Socrates is like the satyr Marsyas. That 
your form and appearance are like these 
satyrs, I think that even you will not venture 
to deny ; and how like you are to them in all 
other things, now hear. Are you not scornful 
and petulant ? If you deny this, I will bring 
witnesses. Are you not a piper, and far more 
wonderful a one than he ? For Marsyas, and 
whoever now pipes the music that he taught, 
(for it was Marsyas who taught Olympus his 
music), enchants men through the power of the 
mouth. 3 For if any musician, be he skilful or 

1 Xen. Mem. iii. 14. i. seq. 2 Symp. 215 A. 

3 The sentence as it stands in Shelley is quite unin- 
telligible. I have corrected it. 


not, awakens this music, it alone enables him 
to retain the minds of men, and from the 
divinity of its nature makes evident those who 
are in want of the gods and initiation : you 
differ only from Marsyas in this circumstance, 
that you effect without instruments, by mere 
words, all that he can do. For when we hear 
Pericles, 1 or any other accomplished orator, 
deliver a discourse, no one, as it were, cares 
anything about it. But when any one hears 
you, or even your words related by another, 
though ever so rude and unskilful a speaker, 
be that person a woman, man, or child, we are 
struck and retained, as it were, by the discourse 
clinging to our mind. 

' If I was not afraid that I am a great deal 
too drunk, I would confirm to you by an oath 
the strange effects which I assure you I have 
suffered from his words, and suffer still ; for 
when I hear him speak my heart leaps up far 
more than the hearts of those who celebrate 
the Corybantic mysteries ; my tears are poured 
out as he talks, a thing I have often seen happen 
to many others besides myself. I have heard 
Pericles and other excellent orators, and have 
been pleased with their discourses, but I suf- 
fered nothing of this kind ; nor was my soul 
ever on those occasions disturbed and filled 
with self-reproach, as if it were slavishly laid 
prostrate. But this Marsyas here has often 
affected me in the way I describe, until the life 

1 Pericles is not named in the original ; he had been 
dead some years. 


which I lived seemed hardly worth living. Do 
not deny it, Socrates ; for I know well that if 
even now I chose to listen to you, I could not 
resist, but should again suffer the same effects. 
For, my friends, he forces me to confess that 
while I myself am still in need of many things, 
I neglect my own necessities and attend to 
those of the Athenians. I stop my ears, 
therefore, as from the Syrens, and flee away 
as fast as possible, that I may not sit down 
beside him, and grow old in listening to his 
talk. For this man has reduced me to feel 
the sentiment of shame, which I imagine no 
one would readily believe was in me. For I 
feel in his presence my incapacity of refuting 
what he says or of refusing to do that which 
he directs : but when I depart from him the 
glory which the multitude confers overwhelms 
me. I escape therefore and hide myself from 
him, and when I see him I am overwhelmed 
with humiliation, because I have neglected to 
do what I have confessed to him ought to be 
done : and often and often have I wished that 
he were no longer to be seen among men. 
But if that were to happen I well know that I 
should suffer far greater pain ; so that where 
I can turn, or what I can do with this man I 
know not. All this have I and many others 
suffered from the pipings of this satyr. 

' And observe how like he is to what I said, 
and what a wonderful power he possesses. 
Know that there is not one of you who is 
aware of the real nature of Socrates ; but since 


I have begun, I will make him plain to you. 
You observe how passionately Socrates affects 
the intimacy of those who are beautiful, and 
how ignorant he professes himself to be ; 
appearances in themselves excessively Silenic. 
This, my friends, is the external form with 
which, like one of the sculptured Sileni, he has 
clothed himself; for if you open him you will 
find within admirable temperance and wisdom. 
For he cares not for mere beauty, but despises 
more than any one can imagine all external 
possessions, whether it be beauty, or wealth, 
or glory, or any other thing for which the mul- 
titude felicitates the possessor. He esteems 
these things, and us who honour them, as 
nothing, and lives among men, making all the 
objects of their admiration the playthings of 
his irony. But I know not if any one of you 
have ever seen the divine images which are 
within, when he has been opened, and is 
serious. I have seen them, and they are so 
supremely beautiful, so golden, so divine, and 
wonderful, that everything that Socrates com- 
mands surely ought to be obeyed, even like 
the voice of a god. 

'At one time we were fellow -soldiers, and 
had our mess together in the camp before 
Potidaea. Socrates there overcame not only 
me, but every one beside, in endurance of evils : 
when, as often happens in a campaign, we were 
reduced to few provisions, there were none who 
could sustain hunger like Socrates ; and when 


we had plenty, he alone seemed to enjoy our 
military fare. He never drank much willingly, 
but when he was compelled, he conquered all 
even in that to which he was least accustomed : 
and, what is most astonishing, no person ever 
saw Socrates drunk either then or at any other 
time. In the depth of winter (and the winters 
there are excessively rigid) he sustained calmly 
incredible hardships: and amongst other things, 
whilst the frost was intolerably severe, and no 
one went out of their tents, or if they went out, 
wrapped themselves up carefully, and put fleeces 
under their feet, and bound their legs with hairy 
skins, Socrates went out only with the same 
cloak on that he usually wore, and walked 
barefoot upon the ice : more easily, indeed, 
than those who had sandalled themselves so 
delicately : so that the soldiers thought that he 
did it to mock their want of fortitude. It 
would indeed be worth while to commemorate 
all that this brave man did and endured in that 
expedition. In one instance he was seen early 
in the morning, standing in one place, wrapt in 
meditation ; and as he seemed unable to un- 
ravel the subject of his thoughts, he still con- 
tinued to stand as inquiring and discussing 
within himself, and when noon came, the 
soldiers observed him, and said to one another 
" Socrates has been standing there thinking, 
ever since the morning." At last some lonians 
came to the spot, and having supped, as it was 
summer, they lay down to sleep in the cool : 
they observed that Socrates continued to stand 


there the whole night until morning, and that, 
when the sun rose, he saluted it with a prayer 
and departed. 

' I ought not to omit what Socrates is in battle. 
For in that battle l after which the generals 
decreed to me the prize of courage, Socrates 
alone of all men was the saviour of my life, 
standing by me when I had fallen and was 
wounded, and preserving both myself and my 
arms from the hands of the enemy. On that 
occasion I entreated the generals to decree the 
prize, as it was most due, to him. And this, 

Socrates, you cannot deny, that when the 
generals, wishing to conciliate a person of my 
rank, desired to give me the prize, you were 
far more earnestly desirous than the generals 
that this glory should be attributed not to your- 
self, but me. 

' But to see Socrates when our army was 
defeated and scattered in flight at Delium 2 was 
a spectacle worthy to behold. On that occasion 

1 was among the cavalry, and he on foot, 
heavily armed. After the total rout of our 
troops, he and Laches retreated together ; I 
came up by chance, and seeing them, bade 
them be of good cheer, for that I would not 
leave them. As I was on horseback, and 
therefore less occupied by a regard of my own 
situation, I could better observe than at Potidaea 
the beautiful spectacle exhibited by Socrates on 
this emergency. How superior was he to 

1 Sc. at Potidaea. 

2 Shelley writes ' Delius,' wrongly. 


Laches in presence of mind and courage ! Your 
representation of him on the stage, O Aristo- 
phanes, was not wholly unlike his real self on 
this occasion, for he walked and darted his 
regards around with a majestic composure, 
looking tranquilly both on his friends and 
enemies : so that it was evident to every one, 
even from afar, that whoever should venture to 
attack him would encounter a desperate resist- 
ance. He and his companions thus departed 
in safety: for those who are scattered in flight 
are pursued and killed, whilst men hesitate to 
touch those who exhibit such a countenance as 
that of Socrates even in defeat. 

' Many other and most wonderful qualities 
might well be praised in Socrates, but such as 
these might singly be attributed to others. 
But that which is unparalleled in Socrates is 
that he is unlike and above comparison with 
all other men, whether those who have lived in 
ancient times, or those who exist now. For it 
may be conjectured that Brasidas and many 
others are such as was Achilles. Pericles 
deserves comparison with Nestor and Antenor ; 
and other excellent persons of various times 
may, with probability, be drawn into comparison 
with each other. But to such a singular man 
as this, both himself and his discourses are so 
uncommon, no one, should he seek, would find 
a parallel among the present or past generations 
of mankind ; unless they should say that he 
resembled those with whom I lately compared 
him, for assuredly he and his discourses are 


like nothing but the Sileni and the Satyrs. At 
first I forgot to make you observe how like his 
discourses are to those Satyrs when they are 
opened, for if any one will listen to the talk of 
Socrates, it will appear to him at first extremely 
ridiculous : the phrases and expressions which 
he employs, fold round his exterior the skin, as 
it were, of a rude and wanton Satyr. He is 
always talking about great market-asses, and 
brass-founders, and leather-cutters, and skin- 
dressers ; and this is his perpetual custom, so 
that any dull and unobservant person might 
easily laugh at his discourse. But if any one 
should see it opened, as it were, and get within 
the sense of his words, he would then find that 
they alone of all that enters into the mind of 
men to utter, had a profound and persuasive 
meaning, and that they were most divine ; and 
that they presented to the mind innumerable 
images of every excellence, and that they tended 
towards objects of the highest moment, or rather 
towards all that he, who seeks the possession of 
what is supremely excellent and good, need 
regard as essential to the accomplishment of 
his ambition. 

' These are the things, my friends, for which 
I praise Socrates.' 

After that, Socrates, Aristophanes and Agathon 
sat the night out in conversation, till Socrates 
made the other two, who were very tired and 
sleepy, admit that a man who could write 
tragedy could write comedy, and that the 
foundations of the tragic and comic arts were 


the same. Then Aristophanes and Agathon fell 
asleep in the early morning, and Socrates went 
away and washed himself at the Lyceum, ' and 
having spent the day there in his accustomed 
manner, went home in the evening.' 

We have now reached the events recorded 
in our dialogues. In 399 B.C. Socrates was put 
on his trial for corrupting young men and for not 
believing in the gods of Athens ; and on these 
charges he was found guilty and condemned 
to death. His death was delayed by a State 
religious ceremonial, and he lay in prison for 
thirty days. 1 His friends implored him to escape, 
which he might easily have done, but he refused 
to listen to them ; and when the time came he 
cheerfully drank the poison and died. It is 
convenient to pause here for a little, before we 
go on to speak of these events in detail, in order 
to get some idea of Socrates as a thinker. With 
a very large number of questions concerning his 
philosophy we have nothing to do. But it is 
essential, if we are to understand these dialogues 
at all, that we should know something about 
certain points of it. 

The pre-Socratic philosophers had been occu- 
pied almost exclusively with Physics and Meta- 
physics. They had tried to solve the problem 
of the Universe regarded as an undistinguish- 
able whole. They had inquired into the nature 
of the Cosmos, and had sought to find some 
universal first principle, such as Air, Fire, or 
Water, to explain it. They had asked such 
1 Xen. Mem. iv. 8. 2. 


questions as How do things come into being ? 
How do they exist ? Why do they decay ? 1 
But in the middle of the fifth century B.C. they 
had failed to satisfy men, and were falling into 
discredit. In a city like Athens, which had 
suddenly shot up into an imperial democracy, 
and which was full of such keen and varied 
intellectual activity, it was simply inevitable 
that ethical and political inquiries should take 
the place of those vague physical speculations. 
The questions which interested the Athenians 
of the time were questions relating to the indi- 
vidual and society, not to the Cosmos. Men 
had begun to dispute in an unscientific way 
about justice and injustice, right and wrong, 
the good and the expedient. 2 They had begun 
to ask, What is justice and right, and the good ? 
Why is a thing said to be just, or right, or 
good? The pre-Socratic philosophers could 
give no answer to such questions. They had 
been conversant not with conduct, but with 
Physics and Metaphysics. The demand for 
ethical and political discussion (or disputation) 
was to some extent met by their successors, the 
Sophists, who were paid teachers (generally 
foreigners), and who professed to educate men 
for public and private life at Athens. 3 There 

1 See Phcedo, 96 A. Of course it must be understood 
that the above is a broad statement, to which exceptions 
may be found. 

2 The pre-Socratic treatment of these questions may 
be illustrated by the speeches of Thucydides. 

3 See Apol. 19 E. seq. 


is a good deal of controversy about their exact 
character and teaching, with which we are not 
concerned. We need not ask whether they 
were a sect or a profession ; whether or no 
their teaching was immoral ; how far they were 
the cause, and how far the effect of the new 
intellectual movement at Athens. 1 The point 
on which I wish to lay stress is that the morality 
which they were content to accept and teach was 
merely the mass of confused and inconsistent 
ideas about ethics and politics which were cur- 
rent at Athens. The whole of their ethical and 
political education was based on those often re- 
peated and unexamined commonplaces, against 
which Socrates waged unceasing war. They 
were not scientific. They had no sense at all 
of the inherent vice of the popular thought and 
morality, and they did not aim at any reform. 
VTheir object was not to teach their pupils the 
truth, but to qualify them for social and political 
success. All that they did was to formulate 
popular ideas. There is an extremely remark- 
able passage in the Republic, in which Plato 
describes their teaching. 2 These mercenary 
adventurers, he says, who are called Sophists, 
teach in fact merely popular opinions, and call 
them wisdom : and he goes on to compare them 
with a man who has learnt by experience to 
understand the temper and wants of some huge 

1 See Mr. Sedgwick in the Journal of Philology, Nos. 
8 and 9. 

2 Rep. vi. 493 A. seq. The whole passage is well 
worth reading. 


and dangerous wild beast, and has found out 
when it is safe to approach it, and what sounds 
irritate it and soothe it, and what its various 
cries mean, and who, having acquired this know- 
ledge, calls it wisdom, and systematises it into 
an art, and proceeds to teach it. What pleases 
the beast he calls right, and what displeases it 
he calls wrong ; though he is utterly ignorant 
which of its desires and wants are, in fact, right 
and good, and which are the reverse. In exactly 
the same way, says Plato, the Sophist makes 
wisdom consist in understanding the fancies and 
temper of that ' many-headed beast,' the multi- 
tude, though he has not an argument that is 
not supremely ridiculous to show that what the 
multitude approves of is, in fact, right and good. 
In short the Sophists dealt, it is true, with 
ethical and political questions, but they dealt 
with them in the most superficial way. Often 
enough they were contemptible charlatans. 

At this point, some time after the Sophists 
had begun to educate men, and when the new 
intellectual and critical movement was in full 
swing, came Socrates. Like the Sophists he 
dealt with ethical and political questions : to 
such questions (rot avdptairfia) he strictly and 
exclusively confined himself. ' He conversed,' 
says Xenophon, 1 ' only about matters relating 
to men. He was always inquiring What is 
piety ? What is impiety ? What is honour- 
able ? What is base ? What is justice ? What 
is injustice ? What is temperance ? What 
1 Xen. Mem. i. i. 16 ; cf. Rep. ii. 367 D. E. 


is madness ? What is courage ? What is 
cowardice ? What is a state ? What is a 
statesman ? What is government ? What 
makes a man fit to govern ? and so on ; and 
he used to say that those who could answer 
such questions were good men, and that those 
who could not, were no better than slaves.' So, 
in the Laches of Plato, he asks, What is courage ? 
In the Charmides, What is temperance ? In the 
first of our dialogues, the Euthyphron^ What 
are holiness and piety ? In the Lysis, What 
is friendship ? The difference between Socrates 
and preceding philosophers, in regard to the 
subject matter of their respective philosophies, 
is complete. They were occupied with Nature : 
he was occupied with man. And the difference 
between him and the Sophists, in regard to 
method, and to the point of view from which they 
respectively dealt with ethical and political ques- 
tions, is not less complete. His object was to re- 
form what they were content simply to formulate. 
He was thoroughly convinced of the inherent 
vice and hollowness of what passed for know- 
ledge at that time. In .the Apology we shall 
constantly hear of men who thought themselves 
wise, though they were not wise ; who fancied 
that they knew what they did not know. They 
used general terms which implied classification. 
They said that this or that act was just or unjust, 
right or wrong. They were ready on every 
occasion to state propositions about man and 
society with unhesitating confidence. The mean- 
ing of such common words as justice, piety, 


democracy, government, seemed so familiar, 
that it never for a moment occurred to them 
to doubt whether they knew what 'justice,' 
or ' piety,' or < democracy,' or ' government ' 
exactly meant. But in fact they had never 
taken the trouble to analyse and make clear to 
themselves the meaning of their words. They 
had been content ' to feel and affirm.' General 
words had come to comprehend in their mean- 
ing a very complex multitude of vague and ill- 
assorted attributes, and to represent in the minds 
of those who used them nothing more than a 
floating collection of confused and indefinite 
ideas. 1 It is a fact, which it is not quite easy 
for us to realise, that Socrates was practically 
the first man to frame a definition. ' Two 
things,' says Aristotle, 2 ' may fairly be ascribed 
to Socrates, namely Induction, and the Defini- 
tion of general Terms.' Until his time the 
meaning of words, which were used every day 
in connection with the commonest, and the 
greatest and the gravest duties of life, had never 
once been tested, revised, examined. It had 
grown up gradually and unconsciously, never 
distinct and clearly defined. It was the creation 
of years of sentiment, poetry, authority, and 
tradition : it had never been corrected or 
analysed by reason. There is a sentence in 
Bacon which describes very felicitously the 
intellectual condition of the Athenians of that 
time : ' Itaque ratio ilia humana quam habe- 

1 See J. S. Mill's Logic, Bk. iv.,ch. 4. 

2 Arist. Metaph. xiii. 4, 6. 


mus, ex multa fide, et multo etiam casu, necnon 
ex puerilibus quas primo hausimus notionibus, 
farrago quaedam est et congeries.' l ' This 
human reason of ours is a confused multitude 
and mixture of ideas, made up, very largely by 
accident, of much credulity and of the opinions 
which we inherited long ago in our childhood." 
Such inaccurate use of language led, as it was 
bound to lead, to inaccurate and loose reasoning. 
' Every (process of reasoning) consists of pro- 
positions, and propositions consist of words 
which are the symbols of notions ; and there- 
fore if our notions are confused and badly 
abstracted from things, there is no stability in 
the structure which is built upon them.' 2 As 
Socrates puts it in the Phado? ( to use words 
wrongly and indefinitely is not merely an error 
in itself: it also creates an evil in the soul.' 
That is to say, it not only makes exact thought, 
and therefore knowledge, impossible : it also 
creates careless and slovenly habits of mind. 
And this inaccurate use of language, and the con- 
sequent intellectual confusion, were not confined 
to any one class at Athens. They were almost 
universal. It was not merely among the noted 
men with a great reputation that Socrates found 
the ' conceit of knowledge ' without the reality. 
The poets could not explain their own poems, 
and further, because they were famous as poets, 
they claimed to understand other matters of 

1 Bacon, Nov. Org. i. 97. 

2 Bacon, Nov. Org. i. 14. I have substituted ' pro- 
cess of reasoning' for 'syllogism.' 3 Phado, 115 E. 


which they were, in fact, profoundly ignorant. 
The skilled artizans were able, it is true, to give 
an account, each of the rules of his own art ; 
but they too, like the poets, claimed to possess 
knowledge in matters of the greatest importance 
(i.e. questions affecting man and society), which 
they did not possess, on account of their techni- 
cal skill : and ' this fault of theirs,' says 
Socrates, l ' threw their real wisdom into the 
shade.' And men of all classes were profoundly 
ignorant that they were ignorant. They did not 
understand defining words. It appeared to 
them to be contemptible hair-splitting. ' What 
is piety ?' asks Socrates of Euthyphron, a man 
who had thought a great deal about religious 
questions. ' Piety,' replies Euthyphron, ' means 
acting as I am acting.' - He had never analysed 
or defined his words. He did not in the least 
understand what definition meant, or the neces- 
sity for it. Such and such an act was pious ; 
but he could not justify his proposition by 
bringing it under the universal proposition, the 
definition of piety, or tell why his act was pious. 
Cross-examination makes him contradict him- 
self over and over again. The simplest way of 
comprehending the confusion of thought and 
language which Socrates found on every side, 
is to read the Euthyphron. And if we examine 
ourselves I think that we shall find that even 
we, like Euthyphron, not uncommonly use 
general terms of the greatest importance with- 
out affixing a very definite meaning to them. 
1 Apol. 22 D. 2 Euth. 5 A. D. 



In our times the Press has become the public 
instructor. We have only to take up a news- 
paper, and read a religious, or political, or ethical 
debate or argument, to have a very fair chance 
of seeing repeated examples of general and ab- 
stract terms used in the loosest and vaguest way 
possible. Such words as ' patriotism,' ' super- 
stition,' 'justice,' 'right,' 'wrong,' ' honour,' are 
not uncommonly used by us, in public, and in 
private, with no more distinct or definite a mean- 
ing given to them, than that which Euthyphron 
gave to ' piety.' 

On this basis rested Athenian opinion. We 
are now in a position to understand so much 
of Socrates' philosophical reforms as concerns 
us. He was filled with the most intense con- 
viction of the supreme and overwhelming 
importance of truth : of the paramount duty of 
doing right, because it is right, on every 
occasion, be the consequences what they may. 
' My friend,' he says, in his defence, to a 
supposed objector, ' if you think that a man of 
any worth at all ought, when he acts, to take 
into account the risk of death, or that he ought 
to think of anything but whether he is doing 
right or wrong, you make a mistake.' l ' I 
spend my whole time in going about, persuad- 
ing you all, both old and young, to give your 
first and chiefest care to the perfection of your 
souls, and, not till you have done that to care 
for your bodies or your wealth : and telling 
you that virtue does not come from wealth, but 
1 Apol. 28 B. 


that wealth, and every good thing which men 
have, comes from virtue.' 1 'We are guided 
by reason,' is his answer when Crito was 
imploring him to escape from prison, after he 
had been condemned to death, ' and reason 
shows us that the only question which we 
have to consider is, Shall I be doing right, or 
shall I be doing wrong, if I escape ? And if 
we find that I should be doing wrong, then we 
must not take any account of death, or of any 
other evil which may be the consequence of 
staying here, but only of doing wrong.' 2 That 

1 Apol. 30 A. a 

2 Crito, 48 C. I am speaking only of the Platonic 
Socrates, and primarily of the Socrates of these dialogues. 
The Socrates of Xenophon takes generally a very dif- 
ferent view of morality. To him the measure of the 
goodness or badness of an act is almost always its 
expediency or inexpediency. He is made to say that the 
good and the useful are the same thing {Mem. iv. 6. 8. 
9). Virtue is therefore the knowledge of consequences. 
A similar doctrine is put into Socrates' mouth by Plato 
(Protag. 333 D. , 358 B.), and Socrates uses it in his 
examination of Meletus in the Apology (25 C. D.) ; 
though I do not think that any stress can be laid on 
that passage, for the whole argument there (as is Ikrgely 
the case also in the Protagoras) is simply dialectical. 
It is of course inconsistent to say that a man should do 
right because right is right, and that he should do right 
because it is expedient to do right. Zeller thinks that 
Socrates was in fact inconsistent (p. 154, seq. ) Grote 
accepts the account of Xenophon, ' the best witness about 
his master' {History of Greece, vol. viii., p. 262, note i). 
He thinks also that the Apology ' may reasonably be 
taken as a reproduction by Plato of what Socrates 
actually said to the Dikasts on his trial' (p. 214, note 
2). These two statements are inconsistent. 


such a man should feel the deepest dissatisfac- 
tion with what passed for thought and morality 
at Athens, was simply inevitable. ' The 
current opinions drawn from men's practical 
exigencies, imperfect observation, and debased 
morality, were no sounder than their sources.' 
And with this dissatisfaction was joined a con- 
viction that God had given him a duty to 
reform ' this mass of error and conventionality, 
which meanwhile the Sophists were accepting 
as the material of their system : ' l a duty from 
which he never shrank, although he knew that 
it might, as in fact it did, cost him his life. 
In order to comprehend the Euthyphron, 
Apology, and Crito, we must ask and answer 
two questions. First, What was Socrates' con- 
ception of reform ? Secondly, What was his 
method ? 

i. The principle of Socrates' reform may 
be stated in a single sentence. It was ' to 
reconstruct human opinion on a basis of 
" reasoned truth."' Conduct which proceeded 
from emotion, enthusiasm, impulse, habit, and 
not from reason, he would not allow to be 
virtuous. His whole teaching rested on the 
paradox that 'virtue is knowledge.' 2 This 

1 These sentences are quoted from Mr. Riddell's most 
striking note on the words 6 5 di/e^Too-ros ^Si'oj 01) 
ftiwrbs ivOpdnrq ( ' an unexamined life is not worth 
living'), Apol. 38 A. 

2 Xen. Mem. iii. 9. 5 ; Arist. Ethics, vi. 13 ; see 
Zeller, p. 106, seq. 'Virtue' is a very inadequate 
representative of dperrj, but I know of no other. By the 


is the leading idea of his attempt to reform 
morality, and it must always be borne in 
mind. It is perpetually alluded to in our 
dialogues. He describes his ceaseless cross- 
examination of men as undertaken with 
the object of testing their knowledge, and of 
preaching the supreme importance of virtue, 
indifferently. 1 And conversely, if Virtue is 
Knowledge, Vice is Ignorance, and conse- 
quently involuntary. He always assumes 
that the crime of corrupting young men 
of which he was accused was caused, if he 
had committed it, not by moral depravity, 
in the ordinary sense of the word, but by 
ignorance. 2 ' You are a liar, Meletus, and 
you know it,' he retorts, on being told that 
he was in the habit of corrupting the youth 
intentionally ; ' either I do not corrupt young 
men at all, or I corrupt them unintentionally, 
and by reason of my ignorance. As soon as I 
know that I am committing a crime, of course 
I shall cease from committing it.' 3 A man 
who knows what is right, must always do right : 
a man who does not know what is right, cannot 
do right. ' We needs must love the highest 
when we see it.' Knowledge is not a part, 
it is not even an indispensable condition of 
virtue. It is virtue. The two things are the 

apery of a man, Socrates meant the excellence and per- 
fection of a man as such. Protag. 325 A. Cf. Arnold's 
note to Thucydides, ii. 40. 6. 

1 Apol. 2 1 D. , 22 E. , 29 E. seq. , 3 1 B. 

-' Euth. 5 A., 1 6 A. 3 Apol. 25 E. 


same. We draw a distinction between Know- 
ledge and Wisdom. The former 

' is earthly, of the mind, 
But Wisdom, heavenly, of the soul.' l 

But Socrates drew no distinction between them. 
To him they were identical. It is needless to 
point out that this doctrine, which takes no 
account of that most essential side of virtue 
which is non-intellectual, is defective, in that 
it puts a part for the whole. But from this 
doctrine Socrates started. He wished to re- 
form morality from the intellectual side. Above 
all things a preacher of ' Virtue,' he devoted 
his life to a search after knowledge. Knowledge 
to him was the same as morality. 

2. In order to understand the method of 
Socrates' reform, it is necessary to recall the 
fact that he found himself confronted with a 
general absence, not of knowledge only, but of 
the very idea of knowledge. The result of his 
constant examination and sifting of men was 
to prove that his contemporaries of every class, 
and above all those of them who were most 
satisfied with themselves, and whose reputation 
for wisdom was highest, were generally in a 
state of that ' shameful ignorance which consists 
in thinking that we know what we do not know.' 2 
And the gravest symptom of this state of things 
was that the Athenians were perfectly well 
satisfied with it. It never crossed their minds 
for a moment to doubt the complete adequacy of 

1 Tennyson, In Memoriam, cxiv. - Apol. 29 B 


what they considered to be knowledge, though 
in fact it was merely a hollow sham. Socrates' 
first object then was to clear the ground, to 
get rid of men's ignorance of their ignorance, 
to reveal to them their actual short -coming. 
Like Bacon, he set himself the task of ' throw- 
ing entirely aside received theories and concep- 
tions, and of applying his mind, so cleansed, 
afresh to facts.' l The first step in his method 
was destructive. It was to convict and 
convince men of their ignorance by means of 
his wonderful cross-examination. He was for 
ever bringing to the test the current common- 
places, the unexpressed popular judgments 
about life, which were never examined or 
revised, and the truth of which was taken for 
granted by every one. He spent his days in 
talking to any one who would talk to him. A 
man in the course of conversation used a 
general or abstract term, such as ' courage,' 
'justice,' 'the state.' Socrates asked for a 
definition of it. The other, never doubting 
that he knew all about it, gave an answer at 
once. The word seemed familiar enough to 
him : he constantly used it, though he had 
never taken the trouble to ask himself what it 
exactly meant. Then Socrates proceeded to 
test the definition offered him, by applying it 
to particular cases, by putting questions about 
it, by analysing it. 2 He probably found with- 
out much difficulty that it was defective : either 

1 Bacon, Nov. Or/, i. 97. 

2 See Bacon, Nov. Org. i. 105. 


too narrow, or too broad, or contradictory of 
some other general proposition which had been 
laid down. Then the respondent amended his 
definition : but a fresh series of similar questions 
soon led him into hopeless difficulties ; and he 
was forced at last to confess, or at least to feel, 
that he was ignorant where he had thought 
that he was wise, that he had nothing like clear 
knowledge of what the word in question really 
and exactly meant. The Euthyphron is a 
perfect specimen of the Socratic examination 
or elenchos. Let me give another very good 
example from Xenophon. Euthydemus, who is 
taking great pains to qualify himself for political 
life, has no doubt that justice is an essential 
attribute of a good citizen. He scorns the 
idea that he does not know what justice and 
injustice are, when he can see so many examples 
of them every day. It is unjust to lie, to deceive, 
to rob, to do harm, to enslave. But, objects 
Socrates, it is not unjust to deceive, or to 
enslave, or to injure your enemies. Euthy- 
demus then says that it is unjust to treat your 
friends so. It is just to deal thus with your 
enemies. Well, rejoins Socrates, is a general 
who inspirits his army with a lie, or a father 
who gets his son to take necessary medicine 
by means of a lie, or a man who takes away 
a sword from his friend who is attempting to 
commit suicide in a fit of insanity, unjust ? 
Euthydemus admits that such acts are just, and 
wishes to alter the definition. Then does 
injustice mean deceiving one's friends for their 


harm ? ' Indeed, Socrates,' replies Euthy- 
demus, ' I no longer believe in my answers : 
everything seems to me different from what it 
used to seem ' (cf. Euth. 1 1 B.) A further 
question, namely, Are you unjust if you injure 
your friends unintentionally ? is discussed 
with a similar result, which Socrates attributes 
to the fact that Euthydemus perhaps has never 
considered these points, because they seemed 
so familiar to him (810. TO fr<f>68pa TritrTtveiv 
d&fvai). Then Socrates asks him what a 
democracy is (of course Euthydemus knows 
that, for he is going to lead a political life 
in a democracy). Euthydemus replies that 
democracy means government by the people, 
i.e. by the poor. He defines the poor as 
those who have not enough, and the rich as 
those who have more than enough. ' Enough,' 
it is pointed out, is a relative term. His defini- 
tion would include tyrants among the poor, and 
many men with quite small means among the 
rich. At this point Euthydemus who had began 
the discussion with complete self-complacency, 
goes away greatly dejected. ' Socrates makes 
me acknowledge my own worthlessness. I had 
best be silent, for it seems that I know nothing 
at all.' 1 To produce this painful and un- 
expected consciousness of ignorance in the 
minds of men who thought that they were 
wise, when they were not wise, and who were 

1 Xen. Mem. iv. 2. n.-39. Cf. Meno, 80 A., where 
Socrates is compared to the torpedo fish which gives a 
shock to whoever touches it. 


perfectly well satisfied with their intellectual 
condition, was the first object of the Socratic 
cross - examination. Such consciousness of 
ignorance was the first and a long step towards 
knowledge. A man who had reached that 
state had become at any rate ready to begin to 
learn. And Socrates was able to bring every 
one with whom he conversed into that state. 1 
Very many who were treated so took deep 
offence : among others, his accuser Anytus. 2 
Such persons he called lazy and stupid. Others, 
like Euthydemus, spent all their time afterwards 
in his company, and were then no longer per- 
plexed by puzzling questions, but encouraged. 3 
It is this object of clearing the ground, of 
producing consciousness of ignorance, that Plato 
dwells on in his portrait of Socrates. He lays 
great stress on the negative and destructive side 
of the Socratic philosophy : but he says scarcely 
anything of its constructive side. It may well be 
doubted whether there was very much to say ; 
whether Socrates did in fact attempt to create 
any system of real knowledge to take the place 
of the sham knowledge which he found existing. 
Xenophon, it is true, represents him as fram- 
ing a certain number of definitions, on the 
basis of generally admitted facts (rot /*aAio-ra 
6/*oAoyoiy/,ej/a). 4 ' Piety,' for instance, is defined 
as 'knowledge of what is due to the gods;' 

3 Xen. Mem. \. z. 14. 

2 Meno, 94 E. ; cf. Apol. 21 U. 

3 Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 40. 
- Xen. Mem. iv. 6. 15. 


'justice ' as ' knowledge of what is due to men.' l 
But I think that Socrates would have said that 
these definitions were tentative and provisional 
only, and designed rather as illustrations of a 
method, than as instalments of knowledge. By 
knowledge he meant a system of ' reasoned 
truth ' based on a thorough fresh observation 
and examination of particulars. He would not 
have been content to take these ' generally 
admitted facts ' as the basis of it. He would 
have insisted on putting them to the test. And 
certainly, whatever may be the meaning and 
value of Xenophon's testimony, nothing can be 
more emphatic than the way in which the 
Socrates of the Apology repeatedly says that 
he knows nothing at all. 2 ' I was never any 
man's teacher. ... I have never taught, and 
I have never professed to teach any man any 
knowledge,' 3 is his answer to the charge that 
men like Critias and Alcibiades, political 
criminals of the deepest dye in the eyes of the 
democracy, had been his pupils. His object 
was to impart, not any positive system, but a 
frame of mind : to make men conscious of their 
ignorance, and of their need of enlightenment. 
His wisdom was merely 'that wisdom which 
he believed was (in the then state of things) 
possible to man.' 4 In other words, he was 
conscious of his own ignorance : and, secondly, 
he possessed a standard or ideal of knowledge, 

1 Xen. Mem. iv. 6. 4. 6. Cf. Euth. 12 E. 

2 Apol. 21 B. D. ; 23 B. 3 Apol. 33 A. 
4 Apol. 20 D. 


and a conception of the method of attaining it 
But he possessed no connected system of know- 
ledge : he was only conscious, and he was the 
first man to be conscious of the necessity of it. 
We may speak of him as a philosopher, for he 
does so himself. But we must remember that 
philosophy in his mouth does not mean the 
possession of wisdom, but only, and strictly, the 
love of, the search for, wisdom. 1 The idea of 
knowledge was to him still a deep and unfathom- 
able problem, of the most supreme importance, 
but which he could not solve. And this will 
enable us to understand better the meaning of 
his famous ' irony.' ' Here is a piece of Socrates' 
well-known irony,' cries Thrasymachus, in the 
Republic? ' I knew all the time that you would 
refuse to answer, and feign ignorance, and do 
anything sooner than answer a plain question.' 
It seems to me that Socrates' 'well-known irony' 
was of- more than one kind. His professions of 
his own ignorance are wholly sincere. They 
are not meant to make the conversation amus- 
ing, and the discomfiture of his adversary more 
complete. He never wavered in his belief that 
knowledge was ultimately attainable ; but he 
knew that he knew nothing himself, and in that 
his knowledge consisted. What Thrasymachus 
calls his irony, is not irony proper. The igno- 
rance is not feigned but real. It is in his 
treatment of vain and ignorant and self-satis- 
fied sciolists, like Euthyphron, that true irony, 
which is accompanied with the consciousness 
1 Cf. Rep. ii. 376 B. 2 Rep. i. 337 A. 


of superiority, seems to me to come into play. 
It is possible, though it is in the last degree 
unlikely, that Socrates really hoped at the 
beginning of the dialogue to find out from 
Euthyphron what piety was ; that the respect 
which he showed to Euthyphron was real. But 
it is plain that the respect which he shows to 
Euthyphron in the last sentences of the dialogue, 
is wholly feigned and ironical. Euthyphron had 
been proved to be utterly ignorant of what he 
had been confident that he thoroughly under- 
stood. He was much too deeply offended to 
acknowledge, or even to be conscious of his 
ignorance ; and he had not the slightest idea 
of what knowledge really was. Socrates was 
ignorant too : but he knew that he was ignorant, 
and he had the idea of knowledge. If he was 
respectful towards Euthyphron then, the respect 
was feigned and ironical, for it was accompanied 
with a consciousness of superiority. 

We have now got, I hope, a sufficient view 
of Socrates' philosophy, so far as it concerns 
us. Its defects lie on the surface, and are too 
obvious to need explanation. He was, in fact, 
the discoverer of the idea of scientific knowledge, 
and he not unnaturally exaggerated the value 
of his discovery. It is evidently a mistake and 
an exaggeration to call a man ignorant unless 
he not only knows, but can also give an account 
of what he knows. 1 There is such a thing as 
'implicit' knowledge: 2 before Socrates' time 

1 Phatdo, 76 B. 

51 Johnson said that ' the greatest part of our know- 


there was no other kind. Not less evidently 
is it a mistake to say that Virtue is Knowledge. 
Knowledge, though an essential part, is certainly 
very far indeed from being the whole of Virtue. 
And a theory which leads to such sarcastic 
comments on poets as Socrates indulges in, 1 
which would try poetry by a purely intellectual 
standard, must, on the face of it, be defective. 
But, even when allowance has been made for 
these defects and mistakes, it would be hard 
to exaggerate the value and originality of his 
teaching. We have some difficulty in grasping 
its vast importance. We have entered into the 
fruit of his labours. What was a paradox to 
the Athenians is a commonplace to us. To 
them the simple principles which he laid down 
seemed generally either absurd or immoral : to 
us they are (in theory) scarcely more than 
household words. He was, in fact, the first 
man who conceived the possibility of moral 
and political science, and of logic. In that, 
and not in the creation of any positive system 
of philosophy, his philosophical greatness con- 
sists. If Aristotle is ' the Master of those who 
know,' assuredly Socrates is their father, and 
'the author of their being.' His theory of 
definitions was the necessary first step towards 
the existence of any scientific thought. Our 
temptation is to undervalue his cross-examina- 
tion. In reading such a dialogue as the Euthy- 
phron, we get bored and irritated by his method 

ledge is implicit faith. ' Boswell's Life, vol. 3, p. 304 
{Napier's Edition, 1884). J Apol. 22 B. C. 


of argument, and it sometimes almost drives 
us to sympathise with the wretched sciolist. 
Coleridge talks of ' a man who would pull you 
up at every turn for a definition, which is like 
setting up perpetual turnpikes along the road 
to truth.' l But it must be always remembered, 
first, that the Socratic cross-examination was 
originally addressed to men who did not know 
what definition meant : that it was a necessary 
stage in the development of human thought ; and 
secondly, that, even to us, it is of the greatest 
importance to make sometimes ' a return upon 
ourselves,' and to ask ourselves the exact mean- 
ing of our stock thoughts and phrases. 

We may now turn to our dialogues, the 
Euthyphron, Apology, Crito, and Phado, which 
describe the trial, the imprisonment, and the 
death of Socrates. The first of them, however, 
the Euthyphron, has only an indirect bearing 
on these events. Socrates is going to be tried 
for impiety, and before the trial begins, he wishes 
to show that the current commonplaces about 
piety and impiety will not bear testing. The 
scene is laid in the porch of the King Archon, 
an official before whom indictments for im- 
piety and the plea of the accused were laid 
and sworn to, matters of religion being his 
especial care. Here Socrates and Euthyphron 
meet, Socrates having just been indicted, and 
Euthyphron being engaged in indicting his 
father for the murder of a labouring man. 
Euthyphron is supremely contemptuous of his 

1 See Carew Hazlitt's Life of Hazlitt, vol. i. p. 48. 


friends and relatives, who say that he is acting 
impiously. On the contrary, he says, his act 
is a holy and pious one. To do otherwise 
would be impious. He himself, he is con- 
fident, knows all about religion, and piety, and 
impiety : he has made them his special study. 
Socrates is anxious to be told what piety is, that 
he may have something to say to his accusers. 
Euthyphron answers at once without hesitation 
' Piety is acting as I am acting now. It means 
punishing the evil-doer, even though he be your 
own father, just as Zeus is said to have punished 
his father Cronos for a crime.' Socrates re- 
marks that he cannot bring himself to believe 
those horrible stories about Zeus and the other 
gods, and he points out that Euthyphron has not 
answered his question. He does not want a 
particular example of piety. He wishes to know 
what piety itself is, what that is which makes all 
pious actions pious. Euthyphron has a little 
difficulty at first in understanding Socrates' 
meaning. Then he gives as his definition, 
' Piety is that which is pleasing to the gods.' 
But he has also said that the mythological tales 
about the quarrels of the gods are true : and 
Socrates makes him admit that if the gods 
quarrel, it is about questions of right and wrong 
and the like, and that some of them will think 
a thing right which others of them will think 
wrong. The same thing therefore is pleasing 
to the gods and displeasing to the gods, and 
Euthyphron's definition will not stand. Euthy- 
phron then changes his ground and says, ' Piety 


is that which is pleasing to all the gods.' 
Socrates demolishes this definition by pointing 
out that what is pleasing to the gods 'is of a 
sort to be loved by them, because they love it ;' 
whereas piety ' is loved by them, because it is 
of a sort to be loved.' By this time the cross- 
examination has thoroughly confused Euthy- 
phron, and he scarcely understands the sugges- 
tion that piety is a part of justice. After a good 
deal of prompting he defines piety as ' that part 
of justice which has to do with the care or 
attention which we owe to the gods (cf. Xen. 
Mem. iv. 6. 4, ' Piety is the knowledge of what 
is due to the gods '). Socrates elicits from him 
with some trouble that by ' attention ' he means 
' service,' and then drives him to admit that 
piety is ' a science of prayer and sacrifice,' or, 
as Socrates puts it, ' an art of traffic between 
gods and men.' We give the gods honour and 
homage, in short what is acceptable to them. 
Nothing, thinks Euthyphron, is dearer to them 
than piety. Indeed piety means ' what is dear 
to them : ' which is in fact, as Socrates points 
out, the very definition which was rejected earlier 
in the dialogue. At this point Euthyphron, 
who has passed from a state of patronising self- 
complacency to one of, first, puzzled confusion, 
and, then, of deeply offended pride, finds it con- 
venient to remember that he is late for an 
engagement and must be off. The dialogue 
ends with an ironical appeal by Socrates for 
information about the real nature of piety. ' If 
any man knows what it is, it is you." 


The Euthyphron is a perfect example of 
Socrates' method of cross-examination, and it 
is not necessary to add anything to what has 
already been said on that subject. We cannot 
tell whether the conversation recorded in this 
dialogue ever actually took place. Socrates' 
dislike of the mythological tales about the crimes 
of the gods should be noticed. It is, he says, 
one of the causes of his unpopularity. Another 
cause is that he has the reputation of being ' a 
man who makes other people clever,' i.e. a 
Sophist. It must also be noticed that the 
real question which he discusses is not whether 
Euthyphron's action is justifiable or no, but 
whether Euthyphron can justify it. 

We come now to the trial and the defence of 
Socrates. He was indicted in 399 B.C. before 
an ordinary Athenian criminal tribunal for not 
believing in the gods of Athens and for cor- 
rupting young men. We must clear our 
minds of all ideas of an English criminal trial, 
if we are to realise at all the kind of court 
before which he was tried. It consisted prob- 
ably of 501 dicasts or jurymen, who were a 
very animated audience, and were wont to ex- 
press openly their approbation or disapprobation 
of the arguments addressed to them. Aris- 
tophanes represents them in one of his plays l 
as shouting at an unpopular speaker the Greek 
equivalent of ' sit down ! sit down ! ' /cara/Ja, 
KardfBa. Socrates' appeals for a quiet hearing 
are addressed to them, not to the general audi- 
1 Vesp. 979. 


ence. There was no presiding judge. The in- 
dictment was preferred by an obscure young poet 
named Meletus, backed up by Lycon,arhetorician 
of whom nothing more is known, and by Anytus, 
the real mover in the matter. He was a leather 
seller by trade and an ardent politician, whose 
zeal and sufferings in the cause of the democracy, 
at the time of the oligarchy of the Thirty, had 
gained him much reputation and influence with 
the people. After the restoration of 403 B.C. 
he was a man of great political weight in Athens. 
All three accusers therefore belonged to classes 
which Socrates had offended by his unceasing 
censure of men, who could give no account of 
the principles of their profession. We meet 
with Anytus again in the Meno, in which 
dialogue he displays an intense hatred and scorn 
for the Sophists. ' I trust that no connection 
or relative or friend of mine, whether citizen 
or foreigner, will ever be so mad as to allow 
them to ruin him.' And he finally loses his 
temper at some implied criticisms of Socrates 
on the unsatisfactory nature of the ordinary 
Athenian education, which did not, or could not, 
teach virtue, and goes away with an ominous 
threat. ' Socrates, I think that you speak evil 
of men too lightly. I advise you to be careful. 
In any city it is probably easier to do people 
harm than to do them good, and it is certainly so 
in Athens, as I suppose you know yourself.' 1 
The next time that we hear of Anytus is as one of 
Socrates' accusers. The form of the indictment 
1 Meno, 91 B. , 94 E. 


was as follows : ' Meletus the son of Meletus, of 
the deme Pitthis, on his oath brings the following 
accusation against Socrates, the son of Sophron- 
iscus, of the deme Alopece. Socrates commits 
a crime by not believing in the gods of the 
city, and by introducing other new divinities. 
He also commits a crime by corrupting the 
youth. Penalty, Death.' 1 Meletus, in fact, 
merely formulates the attack made on Socrates 
by Aristophanes in the Clouds. The charge of 
atheism and of worshipping strange gods was 
a stock accusation against the Physical Philo- 
sophers. 2 The charge of immorality, of corrupt- 
ing the youth, was a stock accusation against 
the Sophists. Meletus' indictment contains no 
specific charge against Socrates as an individual. 
A few words are necessary to explain the 
procedure at the trial. The time assigned to 
it was divided into three equal lengths. In 
the first the three accusers made their speeches : 
with this we are not concerned. The second 
was occupied by the speeches of the accused 
(and sometimes of his friends), that is, by the 
first twenty-four chapters of the Apology. Then 
the judges voted and found their verdict. The 
third length opened with the speech of the 
prosecutor advocating the penalty which he 
proposed in this case, death. The accused 

1 See Apol. 24 B. 

2 Apol. 1 8 C., 23 D. A few years earlier a decree, 
aimed at Anaxagoras, was passed, at the instance of one 
Diopeithes, making it criminal to deny religion or to 
teach meteorology. Plut. Pericles, xxxii. 


was at liberty to propose a lighter alternative 
penalty, and he could then make a second 
speech in support of his proposal. He might 
at the same time bring forward his wife and 
children, and so appeal to the pity of the Court. 
To this stage of the proceedings belong chapters 
xxv.-xxviii. inclusive, of the Apology. Then the 
judges had to decide between the two penalties 
submitted to them, of which they had to choose 
one. If they voted for death, the condemned 
man was led away to prison by the officers of 
the Eleven : With chapter xxviii. the trial ends : 
we cannot be certain that Socrates was ever actu- 
ally allowed to make such an address as is con- 
tained in the closing chapters of the Apology. It 
is at least doubtful whether the Athenians, who 
had just condemned a man to death that they 
might no longer be made to give an account of 
their lives, would endure to hear him denounc- 
ing judgment against them for their sins, and 
prophesying the punishment which awaited 
them. Finally, we must remember that at 
certain points of his defence, strictly so called, 
Socrates must be supposed to call witnesses. 1 

The first part of the Apology begins with a 
short introduction. Then Socrates proceeds 
to divide his accusers into two sets. First 
there are those who have been accusing him 
untruly now for many years, among them his 
old enemy Aristophanes ; then there are Meletus 
and his companions. He will answer his ' first 
accusers ' first. They have accused him of being 
1 E.g. Apol. 21 A. ; 32 E. 


at once a wicked sophist and a natural philo- 
sopher. He distinguishes these characters, and 
points out that it is untrue to say that he is either 
one or the other. He is unpopular because he 
has taken on himself the duty of examining men, 
in consequence of a certain answer given by 
the Delphic oracle, ' that he was the wisest of 
men.' He describes the examination of men 
which he undertook to test the truth of the 
oracle, which has gained him much hatred : 
men do not like to be proved ignorant when 
they think themselves wise. They call him 
a sophist and every kind of bad name besides, 
because he exposes their pretence of knowledge. 
Then he turns to his present accusers, Meletus, 
Anytus, and Lycon. Meletus is cross-examined 
and easily made to contradict himself: he is 
an infant in Socrates' hands, who treats him 
very contemptuously, answering a fool according 
to his folly. But some one may ask, is it worth 
while to risk death for the sake of such a life 
as you are leading ? Socrates replies that he 
did not desert the post which human generals 
assigned him ; shall he desert the post at which 
God has set him ? He will not do that ; and 
therefore he will not accept an acquittal condi- 
tional on abstaining from an examination of 
men. The Athenians should not be angry with 
him ; rather they should thank God for sending 
him to them to rouse them, as a gadfly to use 
a quaint simile rouses a noble but sluggish 
steed. If they put him to death, they will not 
easily find a successor to him. His whole life 


is devoted to their service, though he is not a 
public man. He would have been put to death 
years ago if he had engaged in politics, for 
there is much injustice in every city, which he 
would oppose by every means in his power. 
His actions, when the ten generals were con- 
demned, and under the oligarchy, prove that. 
But as a private man he has striven for justice 
all his life, and his conversation has been open 
before all. If young men have been corrupted 
by him, why do they not come forward to 
accuse him when they are grown up ? Or if 
they do not like to come forward, why do not 
their relatives, who are uncorrupted ? It is 
because they know very well that he be speak- 
ing the truth, and that Anytus is a liar. 

That is pretty much what he has to say. 
He will not appeal to the compassion of the 
judges. Such conduct brings disgrace on 
Athens ; and besides, the judges have sworn 
to decide according to law, and to appeal to 
their feelings would be to try to make them 
forswear themselves : he is accused of impiety, 
he will not accuse himself of impiety by such 
conduct. With these words he commits his 
cause to the judges and to God. 

At this point the judges vote. He is con- 
demned by 281 to 220. Meletus' speech in 
support of sentence of death follows, and then 
Socrates' speech in favour of his alternative 
penalty. He has expected to be condemned, 
and by a much larger majority. What shall 
he propose as his penalty ? What does he 


deserve for his life ? He is a public benefactor; 
and he thinks that he ought to have a public 
maintenance in the Prytaneum, like an Olympic 
victor. Seriously, why should he propose a 
penalty ? He is sure that he has done no 
wrong. He does not know whether death is 
a good or an evil. Why should he propose 
something that he knows to be an evil ? Pay- 
ment of a fine would be no evil, but then he has 
no money to pay a fine with ; perhaps he can 
make up one mina : that is his proposal. Or, 
as his friends wish it, he offers thirty minas, and 
his friends will be sureties for payment. 

The Athenians, as they were logically bound 
to do, condemn him to death. They have 
voted against him, wishing to be relieved from 
the necessity of having to give an account of 
their lives, and after their verdict he affirms 
more strongly than ever that he will not cease 
from examining them. With the sentence of 
death the trial ends ; but in the Apology Socrates 
addresses some last words to those who have 
condemned him, and to those who have ac- 
quitted him. The former he sternly rebukes 
for their crime, and foretells the evil that awaits 
them as the consequence of it : to the latter he 
wishes to talk about what has befallen him, and 
death. They must be of good cheer. No 
harm can come to a good man in life or in 
death. Death is either an eternal and dream- 
less sleep, wherein there is no sensation at all ; 
or it is a journey to another and a better world, 
where are the famous men of old. Whichever 


alternative be true, death is not an evil but a 
good. His own death is willed by the gods, 
and he is content. He has only one request 
to make, that his judges will trouble his sons, as 
he has troubled his judges, if his sons set riches 
above virtue, and think themselves great men 
when they are worthless. ' But now the time 
has come for us to depart, for me to die and 
for you to live. Whether life or death be 
better is known only to God.' So ends this 
wonderful dialogue. 

The first question which presents itself to a 
reader of the Apology is, How far does it coin- 
cide with, or represent what Socrates actually 
said in his defence ? We know from Xenophon 
that he might easily have obtained a verdict, if 
he would have consented to conciliate his judges 
with prayers and flattery j 1 and also that the 
divine sign forbade him to prepare any defence. 2 
But that is all that we know of his defence, 
apart from the Apology, and if the Apology 
contains any of the actual utterances of Socrates, 
we have no means of determining which they 
are. I think that Mr. Riddell has shown beyond 
any reasonable doubt (although Zeller speaks of 
the opposite view as ' well established ') that 
the structure of the defence is the work of Plato. 
He points out (Introduction, p. xx.) that whereas 
Xenophon declares that Socrates prepared no 
speech, the Apology is ' artistic to the core,' 
and full of ' subtle rhetoric.' Take, for example, 

1 Xen. Mem. iv. 4. 4. Cf. Apol. 34 C. 

2 Xen. Mem. iv. 8. 5. Cf. Apol. 17 B. 


the argument against the charges of the first 
accusers (ch. ii.-x.) Their slanders and preju- 
dices are, as a matter of fact, merely those of 
the mass of Athenians, including the judges. 
To have attacked those prejudices openly would 
have been merely to give offence to the judges. 
The attack on them is therefore masked. It 
is not made on ' your slanders and prejudices ' 
(except only in 19 A. and 24 A.) but on the 
slanders and prejudices of certain individuals, 
whose very names Socrates does not know 
(' except in the case of the comic poets ') who 
have been accusing him falsely for many years, 
very persistently. Further, as Mr. Riddell 
points out, the Apology is full of rhetorical 
commonplaces. ' The exordium may be paral- 
leled, piece by piece, from the orators.' And 
the whole defence is most artistically arranged, 
with the answer to the formal indictment in the 
middle, where it is least prominent, being the 
least important part of the speech. Apart from 
the structure of the Apology, the style and 
language is clearly Plato's, whatever may be 
said about the substance of it. 

' Notwithstanding, we can seek in the Apology 
a portrait of Socrates before his judges, and 
not be disappointed. Plato has not laid before 
us a literal narrative of the proceedings, and 
bidden us thence form the conception for our- 
selves ; rather he has intended us to form it 
through the medium of his art. The structure 
is his, the language is his, much of the substance 
may be his : notwithstanding, quite independ- 


ently of the literal truth of the means, he 
guarantees to us a true conception of the scene 
and of the man. We see that ' liberam contu- 
maciam a magnitudine animi ductam non a 
superbia ' (Cic. Tusc. \. 29), and feel that it 
must be true to Socrates, although with Cicero 
himself we have derived the conception from 
Plato's ideal and not from history. We hear 
Meletus subjected to a questioning which, though 
it may not have been the literal e/3WT?;cris of 
the trial, exhibits to us the great questioner 
in his own element. We discover repeated 
instances of the irony, which, uniting self-appre- 
ciation with a true and unflattering estimate of 
others, declines to urge considerations which 
lie beyond the intellectual or moral ken of the 
judges. Here we have that singularity of ways 
and thoughts which was half his offence obtrud- 
ing itself to the very last in contempt of conse- 
quences. Here we have that characteristic 
assertion of private judgment against authority 
which declares itself in the words eyw lytag, 

Treuro/zat Se //.dAAov TO 9(.(a r} (29 D.) 
Here we have also his disapproval of the exist- 
ing democracy of Athens which he rather 
parades than disguises. And lastly, the deep 
religiousness which overshadowed all his char- 
acter breathes forth in the account he renders 
of his past life, in his anticipations of the future, 
and in his whole present demeanour. 

' Thus while the problem of the relation of 
the Apology to what Socrates actually said 


must remain unsolved, there is no doubt that 
it bodies forth a lifelike representation ; a repre- 
sentation of Socrates as Plato wished us to con- 
ceive of him, and yet at the same time as true 
to nature as the art of Plato could render it.' 1 
Plato, we know was present at the trial : 2 he 
knew well how Socrates had defended himself: 
he doubtless often discussed that memorable 
day with Socrates in the prison : and he had 
an intense reverence for his great master. Of 
course he could not give a verbatim report of 
a speech made without even a note : there were 
no shorthand writers at Athens. But he knew 
the substance of the defence. His Apology 
may perhaps be compared to the speeches in 
Thucydides, who observes that it was difficult to 
remember the exact things said by the speakers 
on each occasion, but that he has adhered as 
closely as possible to the general sense and 
substance of their arguments. 3 

We know very little about the specific charges 
contained in the speeches for the prosecution. 
The only direct reference to them in the 
Apology is in Socrates' passing disclaimer of 
any responsibility for the political crimes of 
men like Alcibiades and Critias. 4 Xenophon 
tells us that ' the accuser ' charged Socrates 
with bringing the constitution into contempt by 
criticising the system of election to political 
office by lot : with teaching children to treat 
their fathers with contumely : with arguing that 

1 Riddell, Introduction, p. xxvii. 2 Apol. 38 B. 
3 Thucyd. i. 22. i. * Apol. 33 A. 


people should love and respect only those who 
could be useful to them : with being respon- 
sible for the crimes of Alcibiades and Critias : 
with wresting bad passages from Homer and 
Hesiod to immoral uses. 1 There is no reason 
to doubt that he did in fact criticise election to 
office by lot adversely. That institution, and 
indeed all popular government, was obviously 
incompatible with his whole intellectual position. 
He believed that government is an art, and the 
most important of all arts, and that as such it 
requires more training, knowledge, and skill 
than any other. 2 He would not have left the 
decision of political questions to chance, or to 
the vote of the uneducated majority. The 
other charges are mere stupid and malignant 
lies, which Socrates passes by in silence. He 
deals with the formal indictment lightly, and 
to some extent, sophistically. The broad 
ground taken up by the prosecution was that 
Socrates' whole way of life and teaching is 
vicious, immoral, and criminal. That was the 
real charge which he had to meet. The avowed 
purpose of his unceasing examination was to 
expose the hollowness of received opinion about 
human affairs : and to understand the animosity 
which such an avowal aroused in Athens, it is 
necessary to remember that to the Greek this 
received opinion represented the traditional 

1 Xen. Mem. i. z. 9. 12. 49. seq. 

2 Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 2 ; cf. Rep. 488, 489, 551 C. D., 
and the amusing description of a democracy, ibid. 557 
E. seq. 


unwritten law of the State. And the State 
meant a great deal more to a Greek than it 
means to us. It was not a mere association of 
men for the protection of life and property. It 
was a sacred thing, tp be loved and revered. 
It had the authority of a church. If we bear 
that in mind we shall comprehend better the 
bitterness called forth by Socrates' attack on 
received opinions, and the strength of the 
position taken up by his accusers in their pro- 
secution. He concentrates the entire force 
and emphasis of his argument to meet them on 
that ground. His defence is a review and 
justification of his life and ' philosophy.' It 
is not an apology. Socrates utters no single 
syllable of regret for the unceasing cross- 
examination of men, which was alleged against 
him as a crime. Neither is it accurate to say 
that he ' defies ' the Athenians. He speaks 
of them individually and as a people in terms 
of strong affection. He loved his fellow- 
countrymen intensely. He has no quarrel with 
them at all. He is unfeignedly sorry for their 
mistakes and their faults, and he does what he 
can to correct them by pointing out why they 
are wrong. He does not defy them. What 
he does is firmly and absolutely to decline to 
obey them, be the consequences what they may. 
The Apology brings out one point about 
Socrates very strongly which must be noticed, 
namely ' the deep religiousness which over- 
shadowed all his character.' To him religion 
meant something very different from the poly- 


theistic and mythological system which was 
current among his countrymen. We have seen 
in the Euthyphron how strongly he condemned 
the horrible and immoral tales about the gods 
which were contained in Greek mythology, 1 and 
how he fears that his condemnation of them 
makes him unpopular. He was far too earnestly 
and really religious a man not to be indignant 
at such stories, or to accept as satisfactory the 
popular State religion. He deals rather care- 
lessly with the count in the indictment charging 
him with disbelief in the gods of Athens. He 
nowhere commits himself to a recognition of 
them, though he emphatically denies that he is 
an atheist. 'Athenians,' he says in the last 
words of his defence, 2 ' I do believe in the 
gods as no one of my accusers believes in 
them : and to you and to God I commit my 
cause to be decided as is best for you and for 
me.' His God was the God of Plato, who is 
good, and the cause of all good and never 
the cause of evil : He ' is one and true in 
word and deed : He neither changes Himself, 
nor deceives others : ' 3 the unknown God, at 
whose altar the Athenians some four centuries 
later ignorantly worshipped : ' the power in 
darkness whom we guess.' ' God alone,' says 
Socrates, ' is wise and knows all things.' 4 He 
protects good men from evil. 5 He declares 

1 See also Rep. 377 E. seq. 2 Apol. 35 D. 

3 Rep. 379 B. seq. , 382 E. See Professor Max Muller's 
Lectures on the Science of Language, vol. ii. lect. ix. 

4 Apol. 23 A. , 42 A. * Apol. 30 D. 


His will to men by dreams and oracles, and the 
priestess at Delphi is His mouthpiece. 1 His 
law and His commands are supreme and must 
be obeyed at all costs. 2 We have already 
seen how Socrates looked on his search for 
wisdom as a duty laid upon him by God. 3 He 
continually speaks of it as ' the service of 
God," 4 which must be performed at all hazards, 
and from which no danger, and no threats 
could be allowed to turn him back. He will 
not hold his peace, even to save his life. 
' Athenians, I hold you in the highest regard 
and love, but I will obey God rather than you' 5 
words strikingly parellel to St. Peter's words 
' we ought to obey God rather than men ' (Acts 
v. 29). And in the service of God he died. 6 

There is one very obscure question relating 
to Socrates' religious opinions. He believed 
that he had certain special and peculiar com- 
munications from God through his ' divine 
sign.' In the Apology he explains it to be a 
voice from God which had been with him 
continually from childhood upwards, which 
frequently warned him even in quite small 
matters, and which was always negative, re- 
straining him from some action. 7 It is diffi- 

1 Apol. 21 A., 33 C. 2 Apol. 21 E., 28 E. 

3 Cf. ante, p. xxvi. * Apol. 22 A. , 23 B. 

6 Apol. 29 D. 

6 For Xenophon's account of Socrates' religious 
opinions, see Zeller, p. 175, and the passages referred to 
there, especially the remarkable words in Mem. \. i. 19 ; 
i. 3. 2. 3. Xenophon, however, as Zeller points out, is 
inconsistent. 7 Apol. 31 C., 40 A. 


cult to say what this ' divine sign ' was. It 
is clear enough that it was not conscience, for 
it dealt not with the morality, but with the 
expediency of actions. In this dialogue it does 
not forbid him to desert his post and neglect 
the duty of examining men which God had 
laid upon him. He will not do that because 
he will not disobey God. The divine sign 
forbids him to enter on public life, because it 
would be inexpedient to do so. 1 Besides, 
conscience is positive as well as negative, 
and Socrates could hardly claim a monopoly 
of it. M. Lelut, in a book called Du Demon 
de Socrate (1836), argues ' que Socrate 
etait un fou,' and classes him with Luther, 
Pascal, Rousseau, and others. 2 He thinks 
that Socrates in his hallucinations really be- 
lieved that he heard a voice. Zeller says that 
the divine sign is ' the general form which a 
vivid, but in its origin unexplained, sense of 
the propriety of a particular action assumed 
for the personal consciousness of Socrates,' 
' the inner voice of individual tact,' cultivated 
to a pitch of extraordinary accuracy. 3 Mr. 
Riddell, in an appendix of great interest, collects 
all the passages from Xenophon and Plato, and 
points out that the two accounts are contra- 
dictory. Taking Xenophon's account he be- 
lieves ' that it was a quick exercise of a judg- 

1 Apol. 31 D. 

2 See Mr. Henry Jackson, Journal of Philology, No. 
10, p. 232. 

3 Socrates and the Socratic Schools, p. 94. 


ment, informed by knowledge of the subject, 
trained by experience, and inferring from cause 
to effect without consciousness of the process' 
(p. 114). If we take Plato's account he 
thinks explanation impossible : we cannot go 
beyond what Socrates says. Dr. Thompson 
(Master of Trinity College, Cambridge), after 
pointing out that it is a sign or voice from the 
gods, and not, as has been sometimes said, a 
genius or attendant spirit, seems to accept 
Schleiermacher's opinion as most probable, 
that it ' denotes the province of such rapid 
moral judgments as cannot be referred to dis- 
tinct grounds, which accordingly Socrates did 
not attribute to his proper self : for instance, 
presentiment of the issue of an undertaking : 
attraction or repulsion in reference to particular 
individuals.' 1 Fortunately the question is 
curious rather than important, for it can hardly 
be said that there is evidence enough to settle 

At the close of the Apology Socrates is 
about to be led away to prison. His death 
was delayed by a certain mission which the 
Athenians annually sent to Apollo at Delos : 
for while the mission was away no one could 
be put to death in Athens. 2 Socrates therefore 
had to spend a long time ironed in the prison, 
in which the scene of the Crito is laid. It is 
early morning, and Socrates is still asleep. 

1 Butler's Lectures on the History of Ancient Philo- 
sophy. Edited by Dr. Thompson, ad ed. , p. 238, 
note 19. 2 See Phcedo, 58 A. 


Crito has come before the usual time, the 
bearer of news which is more bitter to him 
than to Socrates, that the ship of the mission 
is at Sunium and will soon reach the Peiraeus ; 
on the following day Socrates will have to die. 
For the last time Crito implores him to escape 
and save himself. It will be quite easy and 
will not cost his friends much ; and there are 
many places for him to go to. If he stays, he 
will be doing the work of his foes ; he will be 
deserting his children, and covering himself 
with ridicule and his friends with disgrace. 
' Think what men will say of us.' 

Socrates replies that he has been guided by 
reason, and has disregarded the opinion of men 
all his life. It matters not what the world will say, 
but what the one man who knows what Right 
is will say, and what Truth herself will think of 
us. The question is, Shall I be doing right in 
escaping, and will you be doing right in aiding 
my escape ? Crito agrees to that, and to the 
first principle which Socrates lays down as a 
starting-point : if any one wrong us, we may 
not wrong him in return. We have no right 
to repay evil with evil, though few men think 
so or ever will think so. Such a sentiment 
must indeed have sounded strange to Socrates' 
contemporaries ; Greek morality was, do good 
to your friends, and harm to your enemies, a pro- 
position which Xenophon puts into the mouth 
of Socrates himself. 1 

Socrates then starts from the principle, that 
1 Mem. ii. 6. 35. 


it is wrong to return evil for evil. Apply that 
to his case : he will be wronging the state if he 
escapes from prison and from death against 
the will of the Athenians ; by so doing, he will 
be doing all he can to destroy the state of which 
he is a citizen. A city in which private indivi- 
duals set aside at their will the judicial decisions 
and laws of the state, cannot continue to exist : 
it must be destroyed. It may be that an in- 
dividual is condemned unjustly : then the 
laws are either bad, or, as he says at the 
end of the dialogue, badly administered. 
Still, the individual may not take the matter 
into his own hands. The members of all 
bodies of men, and therefore of the state, 
must sacrifice their individual wills, more or 
less, to the whole to which they belong. They 
must obey the rules or laws of the whole, or 
it will perish. Even in bodies of bad men 
there must be, and is, a certain harmony and 
unanimity. 1 The Crito represents Socrates as 
the good citizen, who has been condemned 
unjustly ' not by the laws but by men,' but 
who will not retaliate on the state and destroy 
it : he will submit to death. Were he to escape, 
the laws would come and ask him why he was 
trying to destroy them, and if he replied that 
they had wronged him, they would retort that 
he had agreed to be bound by all the judicial 
decisions of the state. He owes everything 
to them his birth, his bringing up, his educa- 
tion ; he is their offspring and slave, and bound 
1 Cf. Rep. 352 C. D. 


to do whatever they bid him without an answer. 
He has agreed to that ; and his consent to the 
agreement was not got from him by force or 
fraud : he has had seventy years to consider 
it ; for they permit any man who chooses, to 
leave the city and go elsewhere. Socrates has 
not only not done that, he has remained within 
the walls more than any Athenian, so contented 
was he. He might have proposed exile as the 
penalty at his trial, and it would have been 
accepted, but he expressly refused to do so. 
And if he runs away, where will he go to ? 
Orderly men and cities will look askance at 
him as a lawless person : life will not be worth 
living in disorderly states like Thessaly ; what 
could he do there ? He would scarcely have 
the face to converse about virtue. Will he go 
away to Thessaly for dinner ? And will he 
take his children with him, and make them 
strangers to their own country ? Or will he 
leave them in Athens ? What good will he 
do them then ? His friends, if they are real 
friends, will take as much care of them if he 
goes to the other world as if he goes to 
Thessaly. Let him stay and die, and he will 
go away an injured man, and the laws of 
Hades will receive him kindly. Such are the 
arguments he hears murmured in his ears. 
Crito admits that he cannot answer them. 

We have no means of saying whether the 
incident of this dialogue ever occurred. Plato 
was quite capable of inventing it. Doubtless 
however Socrates' friends would have liked to 


save his life, and nothing is more likely than 
that they proposed escape to him. Crito is met 
with again in the Phcedo. He is an old and 
intimate friend, who asks for Socrates' last com- 
mands, and is with him at his last parting from 
his family, and closes his eyes after death. He 
is not good at argument ; and it is worth notic- 
ing that, in the latter half of the Crito, the 
dialogue almost becomes a monologue : the 
reasoning in the Phcedo makes but little impres- 
sion on him. 1 

In the Phcedo the story of Socrates' death 
is related at Phlius to Echecrates and other 
Phliasians by Phsedo, who had been with his 
master to the end. It is a dialogue within a 
dialogue, the scene of the first being Phlius, and 
of the second the prison, a day or two after 
the incident narrated in the Crito! 1 Phaedo 
first explains how the mission to Apollo delayed 
Socrates' death for so long : 3 he tells who were 
present, how they heard the night before of 
the arrival of the ship from Delos, and how 
they arranged to go to Socrates the next morn- 
ing very early. Then we are taken into the 
prison, where Socrates has just been released 
from his fetters, and Xanthippe, who is soon 
sent away wailing, is sitting by him. Socrates 
remarks on the close connection of pleasure 
and pain, and then the conversation turns upon 
suicide, which Socrates says is wrong, though 

1 See Phcedo, 115 D. E. 

2 Crito, 44 A. 

* Thirty days. Xen. Mem. iv. 8. z. 


the philosopher will always long to die. Such 
a man, when he is dead, will be cared for by 
good gods, he will be with better companions 
than on earth, and he will be released from the 
body, which is a perpetual hindrance to the 
soul in her pursuit of truth. Philosophy is a 
study of death ; the philosopher longs to be 
emancipated from the bondage of the body, 
for he desires knowledge, which is attainable 
only after death. Those who fear death do not 
love wisdom, but their bodies, or wealth, or 
honour. And their virtue is a strange thing. 
They are brave from a fear of greater evils, 
and temperate because intemperance prevents 
them from enjoying certain pleasures. Such 
virtue is utterly false, and unsound, and slavish. 
True virtue is a purification of the soul, and 
those who have purified their souls will be with 
the gods after death. Therefore Socrates is 
ready to die. 

Cebes fears that when a man dies his soul 
vanishes away like smoke. Socrates proceeds 
to discuss the immortality of the soul. In the 
first place, by a confusion of sequence and 
effect, he argues that opposites are generated 
from opposites : and therefore life from death. 
If it were not so, if death were generated from 
life, and not life from death, everything would 
at length be dead. He next makes use of the 
Platonic doctrine of Reminiscence. All our 
knowledge is a remembrance of what we have 
known at some previous time, and that can 
only have been before we were born. Our 


souls therefore must have existed before they 
entered our bodies. Simmias admits that, but 
wants a further proof that they will continue 
to exist when we are dead. Socrates has no 
objection to go on with the discussion, though 
the further proof is needless. Which, he asks, 
is most liable to dissolution, the simple and 
unchanging, or the compound and changing ? 
that which is akin to the divine, or that which 
is akin to the mortal ? Clearly the former in 
both instances ; in other words the soul is less 
subject to dissolution than the body. But the 
body, if it be properly embalmed, may be pre- 
served for ages, and parts of it, as the bones, 
are to all intents and purposes immortal. Can 
it be said then that the soul vanishes away at 
death ? Far from it : the pure soul goes hence 
to a place that is glorious, and pure, and invis- 
ible, and lives with the gods, while the soul that 
is impure flutters about tombs, weighed down 
by her earthly element, until she is again im- 
prisoned in the body of some animal with habits 
congenial to the habits of her previous life. The 
sensual soul for instance goes into the body of 
an ass ; the unjust or tyrannical soul into the 
body of a wolf or a kite : such souls as have 
been just and temperate, though without philo- 
sophy or intelligence, go into the bodies of 
some gentle creature, the bee, or the wasp, or, 
it may be, of moderate men. Only the souls 
of philosophers go and live with the gods. 
That is why philosophers abstain from bodily 


Simmias and Cebes are still unconvinced, 
and with a little pressure are induced to state 
their difficulties. Simmias believes the soul 
to be a harmony of the elements of the body, 
and that she is to the body, as a musical har- 
mony is to a lyre. But a musical harmony, 
though diviner than the lyre, does not survive 
it. Cebes grants the soul to be much more 
enduring than the body, but he cannot see that 
the soul has been proved to be immortal. 

At this point there is a break in the argu- 
ment. The listeners nearly despair on hearing 
these objections. Then Socrates proceeds, 
first warning them against coming to hate 
reasoning, because it has sometimes deceived 
them. The fault is not in reasoning, but in 
themselves. And he begs them to be careful 
that he does not mislead them in his eager- 
ness to prove the soul immortal. He is an 
interested party. 

He answers Simmias first. Does Simmias 
still believe in the doctrine of Reminiscence ? 
He does. Then the soul is not a harmony of 
the elements of the body : if she were, she 
would have existed before the elements which 
compose her. And the soul leads, and is never 
more or less a soul. In those things she differs 
from a harmony, and so Simmias' objection 
fails. Cebes' point is more important. To 
answer him involves an investigation of the 
whole question of generation and decay ; but 
Socrates is willing to narrate his own experi- 
ences on the subject. In his youth he had a pas- 


sion for Natural Philosophy : he thought about it 
till he was completely puzzled. He could not 
understand the mechanical and physical causes 
of the philosophers. He hoped great things from 
Anaxagoras, who, he was told, said that Mind 
was the Universal Cause, and who, he expected, 
would show that everything was ordered in 
the best way. He was grievously disappointed. 
Anaxagoras made no use of mind at all, but 
introduced air, and ether, and a number of 
strange things as causes. In his disappoint- 
ment he turned to investigate the question of 
causation for himself. All his hearers will 
admit the existence of absolute Ideas. He 
made up his mind that Ideas are the causes 
of phenomena, beauty of beautiful things, 
greatness of great things, and so on. Eche- 
crates interposes the remark that any man of 
sense will agree to that. Socrates goes on to 
show that opposite Ideas cannot coexist in the 
same person : if it is said that Simmias is 
both tall and short, because he is taller than 
Socrates and shorter than Phasdo, that is true ; 
but he is only tall and short relatively. An 
Idea must always perish or retreat before its 
opposite. Further than that, an Idea will 
not only not admit its opposite ; it will not 
admit that which is inseparable from its op- 
posite. The opposite of cold is heat ; and 
just as cold will not admit heat, so it will not 
admit fire, which is inseparable from heat. 
Cold and fire cannot coexist in the same 
object. So life is the opposite of death, and 


life is inseparable from the soul. Therefore the 
soul will not admit death. She is immortal, 
and therefore indestructible : and when a man 
dies his soul goes away safe and unharmed. 
Simmias admits that he has nothing to urge 
against Socrates' reasoning though he cannot 
say that he is quite satisfied. Human reason 
is weak and the subject vast. 

But if the soul lives on after death, how 
terrible must be the danger of neglecting her ! 
For she takes to Hades nothing but her nurture 
and education, and these make a great differ- 
ence to her at the very beginning of her journey 
thither. Socrates then describes the soul's 
journey to the other world, and her life there : 
a remark that the earth is a wonderful place, 
not at all like what it is commonly thought to 
be, leads to the description of the earth in the 
famous Myth of the Phcedo, which Plato, with 
consummate art, interposes between the hard 
metaphysical argument of the dialogue, and the 
account of Socrates' death. Socrates describes 
the earth, its shape, and character, and inhabi- 
tants, and beauty. We men, who think we live 
on its surface, really live down in a hollow. 
Other men live on the surface, which is much 
fairer than our world. Then he goes on to 
describe Tartarus and its rivers, of which the 
chief are Oceanus, Acheron, Pyriphlegethon, 
and Cocytus. He proceeds to speak of the 
judgment and rewards and punishments of the 
souls after death : a man who has devoted him- 
self to his soul and not to his body need not 


be afraid of death, which is a complete release 
from the body, for for him there is a place 
prepared of wonderful beauty. Socrates has 
not time to speak of it now. It is getting late, 
and he must bathe and prepare for death. 

Crito asks for Socrates' last commands. The 
argument has made no impression on him ; he 
does not understand that Socrates is going 
away, and wishes to know how to bury him. 
Socrates leaves that to his friends, ' only you 
must catch me first.' Then he goes away with 
Crito to bathe, and takes leave of his family : 
there is but little conversation after that. The 
poison is brought, and Socrates drinks it calmly, 
without changing colour, rebuking his friends 
for their noisy grief. A few moments before 
he dies he remembers that he owes a cock to 
Asclepius. Crito must pay it for him. Then 
there was a convulsive movement, and he was 

The Phado is not a dialogue of which much 
need be said. The perfect beauty of Plato's 
description of his great master's death at the 
hands of the law, which is singular for the 
complete absence of anything violent or repul- 
sive from it, is best left to speak for itself; and 
the greater part of the dialogue is occupied with 
Platonic metaphysics, with which we are not 
concerned. For the Phado may be divided 
into two parts, the historical, and the philo- 
sophical. Plato was not present at Socrates' 
death j 1 but there is no reason for doubting 
1 Phccdo, 59 B. 


that his account of it is substantially correct. 
He must have often heard the story of that 
last day from eye-witnesses. The philosophy 
of the Phcedo is another matter. There is no 
doubt that that is not Socratic, but Platonic. 1 
It is likely enough that the last day of Socrates' 
life, even to the setting of the sun, when he 
was to die, was spent with his friends in the 
accustomed examination of himself and them, 
and in the search after hard intellectual truth to 
which his whole life had been devoted ; and it 
may well be that his demeanourwas, in fact, more 
serious and earnest than usual on that day, as 
if, in spite of all his confident belief in a future 
life, death had cast the solemnity of its shadow 
upon him. But it is quite certain that the 
metaphysical arguments of the Phado were not 
those used by Socrates, in his prison, or at any 
other time. That can be very shortly proved. 
In the Ph<zdo, Socrates is represented as a 
keen and practised metaphysician, who has 
definite theories about the origin of knowledge, 
and the causes of Being. He ' is fond of stat- 
ing ' 2 the doctrine that knowledge is an imper- 
fect recollection of what we have known in a 
previous state of existence : and he is quite 
familiar with the doctrine of ideas. But the 
real Socrates, the Socrates of the Apology 
and the admittedly Socratic dialogues, and 
of Xenophon, confined himself strictly to 
questions affecting men and society. 3 All 

1 See Zeller's Plato, ch. iii. p. 133, and ch. ix. 

2 Phcedo, 72 E. 3 E.g. Apol. 30 B. . 33 B. 


that he knew was that he was ignorant. His 
greatness as a thinker does not consist in the 
fact that he was the author or the teacher of 
any system of positive philosophy, metaphysical 
or other ; but in the fact that he was the first 
man who conceived the very idea of scientific 
knowledge, and of the method of arriving at it. 
And it must be remembered that the Apology, 
which contains Plato's account of Socrates, as 
he actually conceived him to be, represents a 
speech delivered only thirty days before the con- 
versation reported in the Phcedo. Once more ; 
in the Phcedo the immortality of the soul is ulti- 
mately proved by the doctrine of Ideas. Now 
Aristotle, whose evidence is the best that we 
can have on such a point, expressly tells us l 
that the doctrine of Ideas was never known 
to Socrates at all ; but that it was a distinct 
advance on his theory of definitions made by 
Plato. Plato, in fact, has done in the Phado 
what he so often did ; he has employed Socrates 
as the chief character in a dialogue, and then 
put into Socrates' mouth opinions and arguments 
which the Socrates of history never dreamt of. 
By far the greater part of the conversation there- 
fore recorded in the Ph&do never took place. 
There is no record whatsoever of the actual 
conversation of that last day. 

Such a man was Socrates, in his life and in 

his death. He was just and feared not. He 

might easily have saved himself from death, if 

only he would have consented to cease from 

1 Metaph. xii. 4. 5. 


forcing his countrymen to give an account of 
their lives. But he believed that God had sent 
him to be a preacher of righteousness to the 
Athenians ; and he refused to be silent on any 
terms. ' I cannot hold my peace,' he says, 
' for that would be to disobey God.' Tennyson's 
famous lines have been often and well applied 
to him : 

' Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, 
These three alone lead life to sovereign power. 
Yet not for power (power of herself 
Would come uncall'd for) but to live by law, 
Acting the law we live by without fear ; 
And, because right is right, to follow right 
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence. ' l 

They illustrate his faith, 'his burning faith 
in God and Right.' Knowing nothing certainly 
of what comes after death, and having no sure 
hope of a reward in the next world, he resolutely 
chose to die sooner than desert the post at 
which God had placed him, or do what he 
believed to be wrong. 

] CEnone. 





SCENE. The porch of the King Archon. 


Euth. What in the world are you doing here CHAP. 1. 
at the archon's porch, Socrates? Why have you Steph.p. 2. 
left your haunts in the Lyceum ? You surely 
cannot have an action before him, as I have. 

Socr. Nay, the Athenians, Euthyphron, call 
it a prosecution, not an action. 

Euth, What ? Do you mean that some one 
is prosecuting you ? I cannot believe that you 
are prosecuting any one yourself 

Socr. Certainly I am not. 

Euth. Then is some one prosecuting you ? 

Socr. Yes. 

Euth. Who is he ? 

Socr. I scarcely know him myself, Euthy- 
phron ; I think he must be some unknown 
young man. His name, however, is Meletus, 
and his deme Pitthis, if you can call to mind 
any Meletus of that deme, a hook-nosed man 
with long hair, and rather a scanty beard. 

Euth. I don't know him, Socrates. But, 
tell me, what is he prosecuting you for ? 

Socr. What for ? Not on trivial grounds, I 
think. It is no small thing for so young a man 
to have formed an opinion on such an important 


matter. For he, he says, knows how the young 
are corrupted, and who are their corruptors. 
He must be a wise man, who, observing my 
ignorance, is going to accuse me to the city, 
as his mother, of corrupting his friends. I 
think that he is the only man who begins at 
the right point in his political reforms : I mean 
whose first care is to make the young men as 
perfect as possible, just as a good farmer will 
take care of his young plants first, and, after 
he has done that, of the others. And so 
3. Meletus, I suppose, is first clearing us off, 
who, as he says, corrupt the young men as 
they grow up ; and then, when he has done 
that, of course he will turn his attention to the 
older men, and so become a very great public 
benefactor. Indeed, that is only what you 
would expect, when he goes to work in this 

II. Euth. I hope it may be so, Socrates, but I 
have very grave doubts about it. It seems 
to me that in trying to injure you, he is really 
setting to work by striking a blow at the heart 
of the state. But how, tell me, does he say 
that you corrupt the youth ? 

Socr. In a way which sounds strange at first, 
my friend. He says that I am a maker of 
gods ; and so he is prosecuting me, he says, 
for inventing new gods, and for not believing 
in the old ones. 

Euth. I understand, Socrates. It is because 
you say that you always have a divine sign. So 
he is prosecuting you for introducing novelties 


into religion ; and he is going into court know- 
ing that such matters are easily misrepresented 
to the multitude, and consequently meaning to 
slander you there. Why, they laugh even me 
to scorn, as if I were out of my mind, when I 
talk about divine things in the assembly, and 
tell them what is going to happen : and yet I 
have never foretold anything which has not 
come true. But they are jealous of all people 
like us. We must not think about them : we 
must meet them boldly. 

Socr. My dear Euthyphron, their ridicule is 
not a very serious matter. The Athenians, it 
seems to me, may think a man to be clever 
without paying him much attention, so long as 
they do not think that he teaches his wisdom to 
others. But as soon as they think that he 
makes other people clever, they get angry 
whether it be from jealousy, as you say, or for 
some other reason. 

Euth. I am not very anxious to try their 
disposition towards me in this matter. 

Socr. No, perhaps they think that you 
seldom show yourself, and that you are not 
anxious to teach your wisdom to others ; but 
I fear that they may think that I am ; for my 
love of men makes me talk to every one whom I 
meet quite freely and unreservedly, and without 
payment : indeed, if I could, I would gladly 
pay people myself to listen to me. If then, as 
I said just now, they were only going to laugh 
at me, as you say they do at you, it would not 
be at all an unpleasant way of spending the 


day, to spend it in court, jesting and laughing. 
But if they are going to be in earnest, then 
only prophets like you can tell where the matter 
will end. 

Euth. Well, Socrates, I dare say that nothing 
will come of it. Very likely you will be success- 
ful in your trial, and I think that I shall be in 

IV. Socr. And what is this suit of yours, Euthy- 
phron ? Are you suing, or being sued ? 

Euth. I am suing. 

Socr. Whom ? 

4- Euth. A man whom I am thought a maniac 
to be suing. 

Socr. What ? Has he wings to fly away 
with ? 

Eitth. He is far enough from flying ; he is a 
very old man. 

Socr. Who is he ? 

Euth. He is my father. 

Socr. Your father, my good sir ? 

Euth. He is indeed. 

Socr. What are you prosecuting him for ? 
What is the charge ? 

Euth. It is a charge of murder, Socrates. 

Socr. Good heavens, Euthyphron ! Surely 
the multitude are ignorant of what makes right. 
I take it that it is not every one who could 
rightly do what you are doing ; only a man 
who was already well advanced in wisdom. 

Euth. That is quite true, Socrates. 

Socr. Was the man whom your father killed 
a relative of yours ? Nay, of course he was : 


you would never have prosecuted your father 
for the murder of a stranger ? 

Euth. You amuse me, Socrates. What 
difference does it make whether the murdered 
man was a relative or a stranger ? The only 
question that you have to ask is, did the slayer 
slay justly or not ? If justly, you must let him 
alone ; if unjustly, you must indict him for 
murder, even though he share your hearth and 
sit at your table. The pollution is the same, 
if you associate with such a man, knowing what 
he has done, without purifying yourself, and him 
too, by bringing him to justice. In the present 
case the murdered man was a poor depend- 
ant of mine, who worked for us on our farm 
in Naxos. In a fit of drunkenness he got in a 
rage with one of our slaves, and killed him. 
My father therefore bound the man hand and 
foot and threw him into a ditch, while he sent 
to Athens to ask the seer what he should do. 
While the messenger was gone, he entirely 
neglected the man, thinking that he was a 
murderer, and that it would be no great matter, 
even if he were to die. And that was exactly 
what happened ; hunger and cold and his 
bonds killed him before the messenger returned. 
And now my father and the rest of my family 
are indignant with me because I am prosecut- 
ing my father for the murder of this murderer. 
They assert that he did not kill the man at all ; 
and they say that, even if he had killed him 
over and over again, the man himself was a 
murderer, and that I ought not to concern 


myself about such a person, because it is un- 
holy for a son to prosecute his father for 
murder. So little, Socrates, do they know the 
divine law of holiness and unholiness. 

Socr. And do you mean to say, Euthyphron, 
that you think that you understand divine 
things, and holiness and unholiness, so accur- 
ately that, in such a case as you have stated, 
you can bring your father to justice without fear 
that you yourself may be doing an unholy deed ? 

Eiith. If I did not understand all these 

matters accurately, Socrates, I should be of no 

5. use, and Euthyphron would not be any better 

than other men. 

V. Socr. Then, my excellent Euthyphron, I can- 
not do better than become your pupil, and chal- 
lenge Meletus on this very point before the 
trial begins. I should say that I had always 
thought it very important to have knowledge 
about divine things ; and that now, when he 
says that I offend by speaking lightly about 
them, and by introducing novelties in them, I 
have become your pupil ; and I should say, 
Meletus, if you acknowledge Euthyphron to be 
wise in these matters, and to hold the true 
belief, then think the same of me, and do not 
put me on my trial ; but if you do not, then 
bring a suit, not against me, but against my 
master for corrupting his elders ; namely, me 
whom he corrupts by his doctrine, and his own 
father whom he corrupts by admonishing and 
chastising him. And if I did not succeed in 
persuading him to release me from the suit, or 


to indict you in my place, then I could repeat 
my challenge in court. 

Euth. Yes, by Zeus, Socrates, I think I 
should find out his weak points, if he were to 
try to indict me. I should have a good deal 
to say about him in court long before I spoke 
about myself. 

Socr. Yes, my dear friend, and knowing this, 
I am anxious to become your pupil. I see that 
Meletus here, and others too, seem not to 
notice you at all ; but he sees through me with- 
out difficulty and at once, and prosecutes me for 
impiety forthwith. Now, therefore, please ex- 
plain to me what you were so confident just 
now that you knew. Tell me what are piety 
and impiety with reference to murder and 
everything else. I suppose that holiness is the 
same in all actions ; and that unholiness is 
always the opposite of holiness, and like itself, 
and that, as unholiness, 1 it always has the same 
essential nature, which will be found in what- 
ever is unholy. 

Euth. Certainly, Socrates, I suppose so. 

Socr. Tell me, then ; what is holiness, and VI. 
what is unholiness ? 

Euth. Well, then, I say that holiness means 
prosecuting the wrong doer who has committed 
murder or sacrilege, or any other such crime, 
as I am doing now, whether he be your father 
or your mother or whoever he be ; and I say 
that unholiness means not prosecuting him. 
And observe, Socrates, I will give you a clear 
1 Reading 


proof, which I have already given to others, 
that it is so, and that doing right means not 
suffering the sacrilegious man, whosoever he 
may be. Men hold Zeus to be the best and 
the justest of the gods ; and they admit that 
6. Zeus bound his own father, Cronos, for devour- 
ing his children wickedly ; and that Cronos in 
his turn castrated his father for similar reasons. 
And yet these same men are angry with me 
because I proceed against my father for doing 
wrong. So, you see, they say one thing in the 
case of the gods and quite another in mine. 

Socr. Is not that why I am being prose- 
cuted, Euthyphron ? I mean, because I am dis- 
pleased when I hear people say such things 
about the gods ? I expect that I shall be called 
a sinner, because I doubt those stories. 1 Now 
if you, who understand all these matters so 
well, agree in holding all those tales true, then 
I suppose that I must needs give way. What 
could I say when I admit myself that I know 
nothing about them ? But tell me, in the 
name of friendship, do you really believe that 
these things have actually happened. 

Euth. Yes, and stranger ones too, Socrates, 
which the multitude do not know of. 

Socr. Then you really believe that there 
is war among the gods, and bitter hatreds, 
and battles, such as the poets tell of, and 
which the great painters have depicted in our 
temples, especially in the pictures which cover 
the robe that is carried up to the Acropolis at 
1 Cf. Rep, ii. 377, seq. 


the great Panathenaic festival. Are we to say 
that these things are true, Euthyphron ? 

Euth. Yes, Socrates, and more besides. 
As I was saying, I will relate to you many 
other stories about divine matters, if you like, 
which I am sure will astonish you when you 
hear them. 

Socr. I dare say. You shall relate them VH 
to me at your leisure another time. At present 
please try to give a more definite answer to 
the question which I asked you just now. 
What I asked you, my friend, was, What is 
holiness ? and you have not explained it to 
me, to my satisfaction. You only tell me 
that what you are doing now, namely prose- 
cuting your father for murder, is a holy act. 

Euth. Well, that is true, Socrates. 

Socr. Very likely. But many other actions 
are holy, are they not, Euthyphron ? 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. Remember, then, I did not ask you 
to tell me one or two of all the many holy 
actions that there are ; I want to know what 
is the essential form 1 of holiness which makes 
all holy actions holy. You said, I think, that 
there is one form which makes all holy actions 
holy, and another form which makes all unholy 
actions unholy. Do you not remember ? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. Well, then, explain to me what is this 
form, that I may have it to turn to, and to use as 
a standard whereby to judge your actions, and 


those of other men, and be able to say that 
whatever action resembles it is holy, and what- 
ever does not, is not holy. 

Euth. Yes, I will tell you that, if you wish 
it, Socrates. 

Socr. Certainly I wish it. 

Euth. Well then, what is pleasing to the 
7. gods is holy ; and what is not pleasing to 
them is unholy. 

Socr. Beautiful, Euthyphron. Now you 
have given me the answer that I wanted. 
Whether what you say is true, I do not know 
yet. But of course you will go on to prove 
the truth of it. 

Euth. Certainly. 

VIII. Socr. Come then, let us examine our words. 
The things and the men that are pleasing to 
the gods are holy ; and the things and the 
men that are displeasing to the gods are un- 
holy. But holiness and unholiness are not 
the same : they are as opposite as possible ; 
was not that said? 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. And I think that that was very well 

Euth. Yes, Socrates, that was certainly said. 

Socr. Have we not also said, Euthyphron, 
that there are factions, and disagreements, and 
hatreds among the gods ? 

Euth. We have. 

Socr. But what kind of disagreement, my 
friend, causes hatred and wrath ? Let us look 
at the matter thus. If you and I were to dis- 


agree as to whether one number were more 
than another, would that provoke us to anger, 
and make us enemies ? Should we not settle 
such dispute at once by counting ? 

Euth. Of course. 

Socr. And if we were to disagree as to the 
relative size of two things, we should measure 
them, and put an end to the disagreement at 
once, should we not ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. And should we not settle a question 
about the relative weight of two things, by 
weighing them ? 

Euth. Of course. 

Socr. Then what is the question which 
would provoke us to anger, and make us 
enemies, if we disagreed about it, and could 
not come to a settlement ? Perhaps you have 
not an answer ready : but listen to me. Is it 
not the question of right and wrong, of the 
honourable and the base, of the good and the 
bad ? Is it not questions about these matters 
which make you and me, and every one else 
quarrel, when we do quarrel, if we differ about 
them, and can reach no satisfactory settlement ? 

Euth. Yes, Socrates ; it is disagreements 
about these matters. 

Socr. Well, Euthyphron, the gods will quarrel 
over these things, if they quarrel at all, will 
they not ? 

Euth. Necessarily. 

Socr. Then, my excellent Euthyphron, you 
say that some of the gods think one thing right, 


and others another : and that what some of them 
hold to be honourable or good, others hold 
to be base or evil. For there would not have 
been factions among them if they had not dis- 
agreed on these points, would there ? 

Euth. You are right. 

Socr, And each of them loves what he thinks 
honourable, and good, and right, and hates the 
opposite, does he not ? 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. But you say that the same action is 

held by some of them to be right, and by others 

to be wrong ; and that then they dispute about 

8. it, and so quarrel and fight among themselves. 

Is it not so ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. Then the same thing is hated by the 
gods and loved by them ; and the same thing 
will be displeasing and pleasing to them. 

Euth. Apparently. 

Socr. Then, according to your account, the 
same thing will be holy and unholy. 

Euth. So it seems. , 

IX. Socr. Then, my good friend, you have not 
answered my question. I did not ask you to 
tell me what action is both holy and unholy ; 
but it seems that whatever is pleasing to the 
gods is also displeasing to them. And so, 
Euthyphron, I should not wonder if what you 
are doing now in chastising your father is a 
deed well-pleasing to Zeus, but hateful to Cronos 
and Ouranos, and acceptable to Hephaestus, 
but hateful to Here ; and if any of the other 


gods disagree about it, pleasing to some of 
them and displeasing to others. 

Euth. But on this point, Socrates, I think 
that there is no difference of opinion among 
the gods : they all hold that if one man kills 
another wrongfully, he must be punished. 

Socr. What, Euthyphron ? Among mankind, 
have you never heard disputes whether a man 
ought to be punished for killing another man 
wrongfully, or for doing some other wrong 

Euth. Indeed, they never cease from these 
disputes, especially in courts of justice. They 
do all manner of wrong things ; and then there 
is nothing which they will not do and say to 
avoid punishment. 

Socr. Do they admit that they have done 
wrong, and at the same time deny that they 
ought to be punished, Euthyphron ? 

Euth. No, indeed ; that they do not. 

Socr. Then it is not everything that they 
will do and say. I take it, they do not venture 
to assert or argue that if they do do wrong they 
must not be punished. What they say is that 
they have not done wrong, is it not ? 

Euth. That is true. 

Socr. Then they do not dispute the proposi- 
tion, that the wrong doer must be punished. 
They dispute about the question, who is a wrong 
doer, and when, and what is a wrong deed, do 
they not ? 

Euth. That is true. 

Socr. Well, is not exactly the same thing 


true of the gods, if they quarrel about right 
and wrong, as you say they do ? Do not some 
of them assert that the others are doing wrong, 
while the others deny it ? No one, I suppose, 
my dear friend, whether god or man, ventures 
to say that a person who has done wrong must 
not be punished. 

Euth. No, Socrates, that is true, in the main. 

Socr. I take it, Euthyphron, that the disput- 
ants, whether men or gods, if the gods do dispute, 
dispute about each separate act. When they 
quarrel about any act, some of them say that 
it was done rightly, and others that it was done 
wrongly. Is it not so ? 

Euth. Yes. 

X. Socr. Come then, my dear Euthyphron, 
9. please enlighten me on this point. What proof 
have you that all the gods think that a labourer 
who has been imprisoned for murder by the 
master of the man whom he has murdered, and 
who dies from his imprisonment before the 
master has had time to learn from the seers 
what he should do, dies by injustice ? How do 
you know that it is right for a son to indict his 
father, and to prosecute him for the murder 
of such a man ? Come, see if you can make 
it clear to me that the gods necessarily agree 
in thinking that this action of yours is right ; 
and if you satisfy me, I will never cease singing 
your praises for wisdom. 

Euth. I could make that clear enough to 
you, Socrates ; but I am afraid that it would 
be a long business. 


Socr. I see you think that I am duller than 
the judges. To them of course you will make 
it clear that your father has done wrong, and 
that all the gods agree in hating such deeds. 

Euth, I will indeed, Socrates, if they will 
only listen to me. 

Socr. They will listen, if only they think that XI. 
you speak well. But while you were speaking, 
it occurred to me to ask myself this question : 
suppose that Euthyphron were to prove to me 
as clearly as possible that all the gods think 
such a death unjust ; how has he brought me 
any nearer to understanding what holiness and 
unholiness are ? This particular act, perhaps, 
may be displeasing to the gods, but then we have 
just seen that holiness and unholiness cannot 
be defined in that way : for we have seen that 
what is displeasing to the gods is also pleasing 
to them. So I will let you off on this point, 
Euthyphron ; and all the gods shall agree in 
thinking your father's deed wrong, and in hating 
it, if you like. But shall we correct our defini- 
tion and say that whatever all the gods hate 
is unholy, and whatever they all love is holy : 
while whatever some of them love, and others 
hate, is either both or neither? Do you wish 
us now to define holiness and unholiness in this 
manner ? 

Euth. Why not, Socrates ? 

Socr. There is no reason why I should not, 
Euthyphron. It is for you to consider whether 
that definition will help you to instruct me as 
you promised. 



Eulh. Well, I should say that holiness is 
what all the gods love, and that unholiness is 
what they all hate. 

Socr. Are we to examine this definition, Euthy- 
phron, and see if it is a good one ? or are we 
to be content to accept the bare assertions of 
other men, or of ourselves, without asking any 
questions ? Or must we examine the asser- 
tions ? 

Euth. We must examine them. But for my 
part I think that the definition is right this 

XIL Socr. We shall know that better in a little 
10- while, my good friend. Now consider this 
question. Do the gods love holiness because 
it is holy, or is it holy because they love it ? 

Euth. I do not understand you, Socrates. 

Socr. I will try to explain myself: we speak 
of a thing being carried and carrying, and being 
led and leading, and being seen and seeing ; 
and you understand that all such expressions 
mean different things, and what the difference is. 

Euth. Yes, I think I understand. 

Socr. And we talk of a thing being loved, 
and, which is different, of a thing loving ? 

Euth. Of course. 

Socr. Now tell me : is a thing which is being 
carried in a state of being carried, because it is 
carried, or for some other reason ? 

Euth. No, because it is carried. 

Socr. And a thing is in a state of being led, 
because it is led, and of being seen, because it 
is seen ? 


Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. Then a thing is not seen because it is 
in a state of being seen ; it is in a state of 
being seen because it is seen : and a thing is 
not led because it is in a state of being led ; it 
is in a state of being led because it is led : and 
a thing is not carried because it is in a state of 
being carried ; it is in a state of being carried 
because it is carried. Is my meaning clear 
now, Euthyphron ? I mean this : if anything 
becomes, or is affected, it does not become 
because it is in a state of becoming ; it is in a 
state of becoming because it becomes ; and it 
is not affected because it is in a state of being 
affected : it is in a state of being affected 
because it is affected. Do you not agree ? 

Eirth. I do. 

Socr. Is not that which is being loved in a 
state, either of becoming, or of being affected 
in some way by something ? 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. Then the same is true here as in the 
former cases. A thing is not loved by those 
who love it because it is in a state of being 
loved. It is in a state of being loved because 
they love it. 

Euth. Necessarily. 

Socr. Well, then, Euthyphron, what do we 
say about holiness ? Is it not loved by all the 
gods, according to your definition ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. Because it is holy, or for some other 
reason ? 


Euth. No, because it is holy. 

Socr, Then it is loved by the gods because 
it is holy : it is not holy because it is loved by 
them ? 

Euth. It seems so. 

Socr. But then what is pleasing to the gods 
is pleasing to them, and is in a state of being 
loved by them, because they love it ? 

Euth. Of course. 

Socr. Then holiness is not what is pleasing 
to the gods, and what is pleasing to the gods 
is not holy, as you say, Euthyphron. They 
are different things. 

Euth. And why, Socrates ? 

Socr. Because we are agreed that the gods 
love holiness because it is holy : and that it is 
not holy because they love it. Is not this so ? 

Euth. Yes. 

XIII. Socr. And that what is pleasing to the gods 
because they love it, is pleasing to them by 
reason of this same love : and that they do 
not love it because it is pleasing to them. 

Euth. True. 

Socr. Then, my dear Euthyphron, holiness, 
and what is pleasing to the gods, are different 
things. If the gods had loved holiness because 
11. it is holy, they would also have loved what is 
pleasing to them because it is pleasing to them ; 
but if what is pleasing to them had been pleasing 
to them because they loved it, then holiness too 
would have been holiness, because they loved it. 
But now you see that they are opposite things, 
and wholly different from each other. For the 


one 1 is of a sort to be loved because it is loved : 
while the other 2 is loved, because it is of a sort 
to be loved. My question, Euthyphron, was, 
What is holiness ? But it turns out that you 
have not explained to me the essence of holi- 
ness ; you have been content to mention an 
attribute which belongs to it, namely, that all 
the gods love it. You have not yet told me 
what is its essence. Do not, if you please, 
keep from me what holiness is ; begin again and 
tell me that. Never mind whether the gods love 
it, or whether it has other attributes : we shall 
not differ on that point. Do your best to 
make clear to me what is holiness and what is 

Euth. But, Socrates, I really don't know how 
to explain to you what is in my mind. What- 
ever we put forward always somehow moves 
round in a circle, and will not stay where we 
place it. 

Socr. I think that your definitions, Euthy- 
phron, are worthy of my ancestor Daedalus. If 
they had been mine and I had laid them down, 
I dare say you would have made fun of me, 
and said that it was the consequence of my 
descent from Daedalus that the definitions which 
I construct run away, as his statues used to, 
and will not stay where they are placed. But, 
as it is, the definitions are yours, and the jest 
would have no point. You yourself see that 
they will not stay still. 

Eulh. Nay, Socrates, I think that the jest is 
1 What is pleasing to the gods. 2 What is holy. 


very much in point. It is not my fault that 
the definition moves round in a circle and will 
not stay still. But you are the Daedalus, I 
think : as far as I am concerned, my definitions 
would have stayed quiet enough. 

Socr. Then, my friend, I must be a more 
skilful artist than Daedalus : he only used to 
make his own works move ; whereas I, you 
see, can make other people's works move too. 
And the beauty of it is that I am wise against 
my will. I would rather that our definitions 
had remained firm and immovable than have 
all the wisdom of Daedalus and all the riches of 
Tantalus to boot. But enough of this. I will 
do my best to help you to explain to me what 
holiness is : for I think that you are indolent. 
Don't give in yet. Tell me ; do you not think 
that all holiness must be just ? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. Well, then, is all justice holy too ? 
12 - Or, while all holiness is just, is a part only of 
justice holy, and the rest of it something else ? 

Euth. I do not follow you, Socrates. 

Socr. Yet you have the advantage over me 
in your youth no less in your wisdom. But, as 
I say, the wealth of your wisdom makes you 
indolent. Exert yourself, my good friend : I 
am not asking you a difficult question. I mean 
the opposite of what the poet 1 said, when he 
wrote : 

' Thou wilt not name Zeus the creator, who made all 
things : for where there is fear there also is reverence. ' 

1 Stasinus. 


Now I disagree with the poet. Shall I tell 
you why ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. I do not think it true to say that where 
there is fear, there also is reverence. Many 
people who fear sickness and poverty and other 
such evils, seem to me to have fear, but no rever- 
ence for what they fear. Do you not think so ? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. But I think that where there is rever- 
ence, there also is fear. Does any man feel 
reverence and a sense of shame about anything, 
without at the same time dreading and fearing 
the character of baseness ? 

Euth. No, certainly not. 

Socr. Then, though there is fear wherever 
there is reverence, it is not correct to say 
that where there is fear there also is reverence. 
Reverence does not always accompany fear ; 
for fear, I take it, is wider than reverence. It 
is a part of fear, just as the odd is a part of 
number, so that where you have the odd, you 
must also have number, though where you have 
number, you do not necessarily have the odd. 
Now I think you follow me? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. Well, then, this is what I meant by 
the question which I asked you : is there always 
holiness where there is justice ? or, though there 
is always justice where there is holiness, yet 
there is not always holiness where there is 
justice, because holiness is only a part of justice ? 
Shall we say this, or do you differ ? 


Euth. No : I agree. I think that you are 

XIV. Socr. Now observe the next point. If holi- 
ness is a part of justice, we must find out, I 
suppose, what part of justice it is ? Now, if you 
had asked me just now, for instance, what part 
of number is the odd, and what number is an 
odd number, I should have said that whatever 
number is not even, is an odd number. Is it 
not so ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. Then see if you can explain to me 
what part of justice is holiness, that I may tell 
Meletus that now that I have learnt perfectly 
from you what actions are pious and holy, and 
what are not, he must give up prosecuting me 
unjustly for impiety. 

Euth. Well then, Socrates, I should say that 
piety and holiness are that part of justice which 
has to do with the attention which is due to the 
gods : and that what has to do with the atten- 
tion which is due to men, is the remaining part 
of justice. 

xv - Socr. And I think that your answer is a 
13. good one, Euthyphron. But there is one little 
point, of which I still want to hear more. I 
do not yet understand what the attention or 
care which you are speaking of is. I suppose 
you do not mean that the care which we show 
to the gods is like the care which we show to 
other things. We say, for instance, do we not, 
that not every one knows how to take care of 
horses, but only the trainer of horses ? 


Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. For I suppose that the art that relates 
to horses means the care of horses. 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. And not every one understands the 
care of dogs, but only the huntsman. 

Eiith. True. 

Socr. For I suppose that the huntsman's art 
means the care of dogs. 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. And the herdsman's art means the 
care of cattle. 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. And you say that holiness and piety 
mean the care of the gods, Euthyphron ? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. Well, then, has not all care the same 
object ? Is it not for the good and benefit of 
that on which it is bestowed ? for instance, you 
see that horses are benefited and improved 
when they are cared for by the art which is 
concerned with them. Is it not so ? 

Euth. Yes ; I think so. 

Socr. And dogs are benefited and improved 
by the huntsman's art, and cattle by the herds- 
man's, are they not ? And the same is always 
true. Or do you think the care is ever meant 
to hurt that on which it is bestowed ? 

Euth. No indeed ; certainly not. 

Socr. But to benefit it ? 

Euth. Of course. 

Socr. Then is holiness, which is the care 
which we bestow on the gods, intended to bene- 


fit the gods, or to improve them ? Should .you 
allow that you make any of the gods better, 
when you do an holy action ? 

Euth. No indeed ; certainly not. 

Socr. No : I am quite sure that that is not 
your meaning, Euthyphron : it was for that 
reason that I asked you what you meant by the 
attention due to the gods. I thought that you 
did not mean that. 

Euth. You were right, Socrates. I do not 
mean that. 

Socr. Good. Then what sort of attention to 
the gods will holiness be ? 

Euth. The attention, Socrates, of slaves to 
their masters. 

Socr. I understand : then it is a kind of 
service to the gods ? 

Euth. Certainly. 

XVI. Socr. Can you tell me what result the art 
which serves a doctor serves to produce ? Is it 
not health ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. And what result does the art which 
serves a shipwright serve to produce ? 

Euth. A ship, of course, Socrates. 

Socr. The result of the art which serves a 
builder is a house, is it not ? 

Euth. Yes. 

Socr. Then tell me, my excellent friend : 
What result will the art which serves the gods 
serve to produce ? You must know, seeing 
that you say that you know more about divine 
things than any other man. 


Euth. Well, that is true, Socrates. 

Socr. Then tell me, I beseech you, what is 
that grand result which the gods use our services 
to produce ? 

Euth. The results are many and noble, 

Socr. So are those, my dear sir, which a 14. 
general produces. Yet it is easy to see that 
the crowning result of them all is victory in 
war, is it not ? 

Euth. Of course. 

Socr. And, I take it, the husbandman pro- 
duces many fine results ; yet the crowning 
result of them all is that he makes the earth 
produce food. 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. Well, then, what is the crowning one 
of the many and noble results which the gods 
produce ? 

Euth. I told you just now, Socrates, that it 
is not so easy to learn the exact truth in all 
these matters. However, broadly I say this : 
if any man knows that his words and deeds in 
prayer and sacrifice are acceptable to the gods, 
that is what is holy : that preserves the com- 
mon weal, as it does private households, from 
evil ; but the opposite of what is acceptable to 
the gods is impious, and this it is that brings 
ruin and destruction on all things. 

Socr. Certainly, Euthyphron, if you had XVII. 
wished, you could have answered my main 
question in far fewer words. But you are 
evidently not anxious to instruct me : just now, 


when you were just on the point of telling me 
what I want to know, you stopped short. If 
you had gone on then, I should have learnt 
from you clearly enough by this time what is 
holiness. But now I am asking you questions, 
and must follow wherever you lead me ; so tell 
me, what is it that you mean by the holy and 
holiness ? Do you not mean a science of 
prayer and sacrifice ? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. To sacrifice is to give to the gods, and 
to pray is to ask of them, is it not ? 

Euth. It is, Socrates. 

Socr. Then you say that holiness is the 
science of asking of the gods, and giving to 
them ? 

Euth. You understand my meaning exactly, 

Socr. Yes, for I am eager to share your 
wisdom, Euthyphron, and so I am all attention : 
nothing that you say will fall to the ground. 
But tell me, what is this service of the gods ? 
You say it is to ask of them, and to give to 
them ? 

Euth. I do. 

XVIII. Socr. Then, to ask rightly will be to ask of 
them what we stand in need of from them, 
will it not ? 

Euth. Naturally. 

Socr. And to give rightly will be to give back 
to them what they stand in need of from us ? 
It would not be very clever to make a present 
to a man of something that he has no need of. 


Euth. True, Socrates. 

Socr. Then, holiness, Euthyphron, will be 
an art of traffic between gods and men ? 

Euth. Yes, if you like to call it so. 

Socr. Nay, I like nothing but what is true. 
But tell me, how are the gods benefited by 
the gifts which they receive from us ? What 
they give us is plain enough. Every good 
thing that we have is their gift. But how are 15. 
they benefited by what we give them ? Have 
we the advantage over them in this traffic so 
much that we receive from them all the good 
things we possess and give them nothing in 
return ? 

Euth. But do you suppose, Socrates, that the 
gods are benefited by the gifts which they 
receive from us ? 

Socr. But what are these gifts, Euthyphron, 
that we give the gods ? 

Euth. What do you think but honour, and 
homage, and, as I have said, what is accept- 
able to them. 

Socr. Then holiness, Euthyphron, is accept- 
able to the gods, but it is not profitable, nor 
dear to them ? 

Euth. I think that nothing is dearer to them. 

Socr. Then I see that holiness means that 
which is dear to the gods. 

Euth. Most certainly. 

Socr. After that, shall you be surprised to XIX. 
find that your definitions move about, instead 
of staying where you place them ? Shall you 
charge me with being the Daedalus that makes 


them move, when you yourself are far more 
skilful than Daedalus was, and make them go 
round in a circle ? Do you not see that our 
definition has come round to where it was be- 
fore? Surely you remember that we have 
already seen that holiness, and what is pleasing 
to the gods, are quite different things. Do you 
not remember ? 

Euth. I do. 

Socr. And now do you not see that you say 
that what the gods love is holy ? But does not 
what the gods love come to the same thing as 
what is pleasing to the gods ? 

Euth. Certainly. 

Socr. Then either our former conclusion was 
wrong, or, if that was right, we are wrong now. 

Euth. So it seems. 

XX. Socr. Then we must begin again, and inquire 
what is holiness. I do not mean to give in 
until I have found out. Do not deem me 
unworthy ; give your whole mind to the ques- 
tion, and this time tell me the truth. For if 
any one knows it, it is you ; and you are a 
Proteus whom I must not let go until you have 
told me. It cannot be that you would ever 
have undertaken to prosecute your aged father 
for the murder of a labouring man unless you 
had known exactly what is holiness and unholi- 
ness. You would have feared to risk the 
anger of the gods, in case you should be doing 
wrong, and you would have been afraid of what 
men would say. But now I am sure that you 
think that you know exactly what is holiness 


and what is not : so tell me, my excellent 
Euthyphron, and do not conceal from me what 
you hold it to be. 

Euth. Another time, then, Socrates. I am 
in a hurry now, and it is time for me to be off. 

Socr. What are you doing, my friend ! Will 
you go away and destroy all my hopes of learn- 
ing from you what is holy and what is not, 
and so of escaping Meletus ? I meant to ex- 
plain to him that now Euthyphron has made 
me wise about divine things, and that I no 16. 
longer in my ignorance speak rashly about them 
or introduce novelties in them ; and then I was 
going to promise him to live a better life for 
the future. 




SCENE. The Court of Justice. 


Socr. I cannot tell what impression my ac- i. 
cusers have made upon you, Athenians : for steph. 
my own part, I know that they nearly made p. 17. 
me forget who I was, so plausible were they ; 
and yet they have scarcely uttered one single 
word of truth. But of all their many falsehoods, 
the one which astonished me most, was when 
they said that I was a clever speaker, and that 
you must be careful not to let me mislead you. 
I thought that it was most impudent of them 
not to be ashamed to talk in that way ; for as 
soon as I open my mouth the lie will be ex- 
posed, and I shall prove that I am not a clever 
speaker in any way at all : unless, indeed, by 
a clever speaker they mean a man who speaks 
the truth. If that is their meaning, I agree 
with them that I am a much greater orator 
than they. My accusers, then I repeat, have 
said little or nothing that is true ; but from me 
you shall hear the whole truth. Certainly you will 
not hear an elaborate speech, Athenians, drest 
up, like theirs, with words and phrases. I will say 
to you what I have to say, without preparation, 
and in the words which come first, for I believe 


that my cause is just ; so let none of you expect 
anything else. Indeed, my friends, it would 
hardly be seemly for me, at my age, to come 
before you like a young man with his specious 
falsehoods. But there is one thing, Athenians, 
which I do most earnestly beg and entreat of 
you. Do not be surprised and do not interrupt, 
if in my defence I speak in the same way that 
I am accustomed to speak in the market-place, 
at the tables of the money-changers, where 
many of you have heard me, and elsewhere. 
The truth is this. I am more than seventy 
years old, and this is the first time that I have 
ever come before a Court of Law ; so your 
manner of speech here is quite strange to me. 
If I had been really a stranger, you would have 
forgiven me for speaking in the language and 

18. the fashion of my native country : and so now 
I ask you to grant me what I think I have a 
right to claim. Never mind the style of my 
speech it may be better or it may be worse 
give your whole attention to the question, Is 
what I say just, or is it not ? That is what 
makes a good judge, as speaking the truth 
makes a good advocate. 

II. I have to defend myself, Athenians, first 
against the old false charges of my old accusers, 
and then against the later ones of my present 
accusers. For many men have been accus- 
ing me to you, and for very many years, who 
have not uttered a word of truth : and I fear 
them more than I fear Anytus and his com- 
panions, formidable as they are. But, my 


friends, those others are still more formid- 
able ; for they got hold of most of you when 
you were children, and they have been more 
persistent in accusing me with lies, and in try- 
ing to persuade you that there is one Socrates, 
a wise man, who speculates about the heavens, 
and who examines into all things that are be- 
neath the earth, and who can ' make the worse 
appear the better reason.' 1 These men, 
Athenians, who spread abroad this report, are 
the accusers whom I fear ; for their hearers 
think that persons who pursue such inquiries 
never believe in the gods. And then they are 
many, and their attacks have been going on for 
a long time : and they spoke to you when you 
were at the age most readily to believe them : 
for you were all young, and many of you were 
children : and there was no one to answer them 
when they attacked me. And the most un- 
reasonable thing of all is that commonly I do 
not even know their names : I cannot tell you 
who they are, except in the case of the comic 
poets. 2 But all the rest who have been trying 
to prejudice you against me, from motives of 
spite and jealousy, and sometimes, it may be, 
from conviction, are the enemies whom it is 
hardest to meet. For I cannot call any one of 
them forward in Court, to cross-examine him : 
I have, as it were, simply to fight with shadows 

1 Milton, Paradise Lost, ii. 113. 

2 E.g. Aristophanes ; see Introduction. Eupolis, 
and probably Ameipsias, had made similar attacks on 


in my defence, and to put questions which there 
is no one to answer. I ask you, therefore, to 
believe that, as I say, I have been attacked by 
two classes of accusers first by Meletus and 
his friends, and then by those older ones of 
whom I have spoken. And, with your leave, 
I will defend myself first against my old 
enemies ; for you heard their accusations first, 
and they were much more persistent than my 
present accusers are. 

Well, I must make my defence, Athenians, 

19- and try in the short time allowed me to 
remove the prejudice which you have had 
against me for a long time. I hope that I may 
manage to do this, if it be good for you and for 
me, and that my defence may be successful ; 
but I am quite aware of the nature of my task, 
and I know that it is a difficult one. Be the 
issue, however, as God wills, I must obey the 
law, and make my defence. 

III. Let us begin again, then, and see what is the 
charge which has given rise to the prejudice 
against me, which was what Meletus relied on 
when he drew his indictment. What is the 
calumny which my enemies have been spreading 
about me ? I must assume that they are formally 
accusing me, and read their indictment. It would 
run somewhat in this fashion : " Socrates is an 
evil-doer, who meddles with inquiries into things 
beneath the earth, and in heaven, and who 
' makes the worse appear the better reason," 
and who teaches others these same things." 
That is what they say ; and in the Comedy of 


Aristophanes 1 you yourselves saw a man called 
Socrates swinging round in a basket, and say- 
ing that he walked the air, and talking a great 
deal of nonsense about matters of which I 
understand nothing, either more or less. I do 
not mean to disparage that kind of knowledge, 
if there is any man who possesses it. I trust 
Meletus may never be able to prosecute me for 
that. But, the truth is, Athenians, I have 
nothing to do with these matters, and almost 
all of you are yourselves my witnesses of this. 
I beg all of you who have ever heard me con- 
verse, and they are many, to inform your neigh- 
bours and tell them if any of you have ever 
heard me conversing about such matters, either 
more or less. That will show you that the 
other common stories about me are as false as 
this one. 

But, the fact is, that not one of these stories IV. 
is true ; and if you have heard that I undertake 
to educate men, and exact money from them 
for so doing, that is not true either ; though I 2O. 
think that it would be a fine thing to be able to 
educate men, as Gorgias of Leontini, and Pro- 
dicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis do. For 
each of them, my friends, can go into any city, 
and persuade the young men to leave the 
society of their fellow-citizens, with any of whom 
they might associate for nothing, and to be only 
too glad to be allowed to pay money for the 
privilege of associating with themselves. And 
I believe that there is another wise man from 
1 The Clouds. 


Paros residing in Athens at this moment. I 
happened to meet Callias, the son of Hip- 
ponicus, a man who has spent more money on 
the Sophists than every one else put together. 
So I said to him he has two sons Callias, if 
your two sons had been foals or calves, we 
could have hired a trainer for them who would 
have made them perfect in the excellence which 
belongs to their nature. He would have been 
either a groom or a farmer. But whom do you 
intend to take to train them, seeing that they 
are men ? Who understands the excellence 
which belongs to men and to citizens ? I sup- 
pose that you must have thought of this, be- 
cause of your sons. Is there such a person, 
said I, or not ? Certainly there is, he replied. 
Who is he, said I, and where does he come 
from, and what is his fee ? His name is 
Evenus, Socrates, he replied : he comes from 
Paros, and his fee is five minae. Then I thought 
that Evenus was a fortunate person if he really 
understood this art and could teach so cleverly. 
If I had possessed knowledge of that kind, I 
should have given myself airs and prided my- 
self on it. But, Athenians, the truth is that I 
do not possess it. 

Perhaps some of you may reply : But, So- 
crates, what is this pursuit of yours ? Whence 
come these calumnies against you ? You must 
have been engaged in some pursuit out of the 
common. All these stories and reports of you 
would never have gone about, if you had not 
been in some way different from other men. 


So tell us what your pursuits are, that we may 
not give our verdict in the dark. I think that 
that is a fair question, and I will try to explain 
to you what it is that has raised these calumnies 
against me, and given me this name. Listen, 
then : some of you perhaps will think that I 
am jesting ; but I assure you that I will tell 
you the whole truth. I have gained this name, 
Athenians, simply by reason of a certain wis- 
dom. But by what kind of wisdom ? It is by 
just that wisdom which is, I believe, possible to 
men. In that, it may be, I am really wise. 
But the men of whom I was speaking just now 
must be wise in a wisdom which is greater than 
human wisdom, or in some way which I cannot 
describe, for certainly I know nothing of it 
myself, and if any man says that I do, he lies 
and wants to slander me. Do not interrupt me, 
Athenians, even if you think that I am speaking 
arrogantly. What I am going to say is not my 
own : I will tell you who says it, and he is worthy 
of your credit. I will bring the god of Delphi to 
be the witness of the fact of my wisdom and of 
its nature. You remember Chaerephon. From 
youth upwards he was my comrade ; and he 21. 
went into exile with the people, 1 and with the 
people he returned. And you remember, too, 
Chasrephon's character ; how vehement he was 
in carrying through whatever he took in hand. 
Once he went to Delphi and ventured to put 
this question to the oracle, I entreat you 
again, my friends, not to cry out, he asked if 
1 At the time of the oligarchy of the Thirty, 404 B. C 


there was any man who was wiser than I : and 
the priestess answered that there was no man. 
Chaerephon himself is dead, but his brother 
here will confirm what I say. 

Now see why I tell you this. I am going 
to explain to you the origin of my unpopularity. 
When I heard of the oracle I began to reflect : 
What can God mean by this dark saying ? I 
know very well that I am not wise, even in the 
smallest degree. Then what can he mean by 
saying that I am the wisest of men ? It can- 
not be that he is speaking falsely, for he is a 
god and cannot lie. And for a long time I 
was at a loss to understand his meaning : then, 
very reluctantly, I turned to seek for it in this 
manner. I went to a man who was reputed to 
be wise, thinking that there, if anywhere, I 
should prove the answer wrong, and meaning 
to point out to the oracle its mistake, and to 
say, 'You said that I was the wisest of men, 
but this man is wiser than I am.' So I examined 
the man I need not tell you his name, he was 
a politician but this was the result, Athenians. 
When I conversed with him I came to see that, 
though a great many persons, and most of all 
he himself, thought that he was wise, yet he was 
not wise. And then I tried to prove to him 
that he was not wise, though he fancied that 
he was : and by so doing I made him, and 
many of the bystanders, my enemies. So when 
I went away, I thought to myself, " I am wiser 
than this man : neither of us probably knows 
anything that is really good, but he thinks that 


he has knowledge, when he has not, while I, 
having no knowledge, do not think that I have. 
I seem, at any rate, to be a little wiser than he 
is on this point : I do not think that I know 
what I do not know." Next I went to another 
man who was reputed to be still wiser than the 
last, with exactly the same result. And there 
again I made him, and many other men, my 

Then I went on to one man after another, VII 
seeing that I was making enemies every day, 
which caused me much unhappiness and 
anxiety : still I thought that I must set God's 
command above everything. So I had to go 
to every man who seemed to possess any know- 
ledge, and search for the meaning of the oracle : 
and, Athenians, I must tell you the truth ; 22. 
verily, by the dog of Egypt, this was the result 
of the search which I made at God's bidding. 
I found that the men, whose reputation for wis- 
dom stood highest, were nearly the most lack- 
ing in it ; while others, who were looked down 
on as common people, were much better fitted 
to learn. Now, I must describe to you the 
wanderings which I undertook, like a series of 
Heraclean labours, to make full proof of the 
oracle. After the politicians, I went to the 
poets, tragic, dithyrambic, and others, think- 
ing that there I should find myself manifestly 
more ignorant than they. So I took up the 
poems on which I thought that they had spent 
most pains, and asked them what they meant, 
hoping at the same time to learn something from 


them. I am ashamed to tell you the truth, my 
friends, but I must say it. Almost any one of 
the bystanders could have talked about the 
works of these poets better than the poets 
themselves. So I soon found that it is not by 
wisdom that the poets create their works, but 
by a certain natural power and by inspiration, 
like soothsayers and prophets, who say many 
fine things, but who understand nothing of what 
they say. The poets seemed to me to be in a 
similar case. And at the same time I per- 
ceived that, because of their poetry, they 
thought that they were the wisest of men in 
other matters too, which they were not. So I 
went away again, thinking that I had the 
same advantage over the poets that I had over 
the politicians. 

VIII. Finally, I went to the artizans, for I knew 
very well that I possessed no knowledge at all, 
worth speaking of, and I was sure that I 
should find that they knew many fine things. 
And in that I was not mistaken. They knew 
what I did not know, and so far they were 
wiser than I. But, Athenians, it seemed to 
me that the skilled artizans made the same mis- 
take as the poets. Each of them believed him- 
self to be extremely wise in matters of the 
greatest importance, because he was skilful 
in his own art : and this mistake of theirs 
threw their real wisdom into the shade. So I 
asked myself, on behalf of the oracle, whether 
I would choose to remain as I was, without 
either their wisdom or their ignorance, or to 


possess both, as they did. And I made answer 
to myself and to the oracle that it was better 
for me to remain as I was. 

By reason of this examination, Athenians, IX. 
I have made many enemies of a very fierce and 23. 
bitter kind, who have spread abroad a great 
number of calumnies about me, and people say 
that I am 'a wise man.' 1 For the bystanders 
always think that I am wise myself in any 
matter wherein I convict another man of ignor- 
ance. But, my friends, I believe that only 
God is really wise : and that by this oracle 
he meant that men's wisdom is worth little 
or nothing. I do not think that he meant 
that Socrates was wise. He only made use of 
my name, and took me as an example, as 
though he would say to men, ' He among you 
is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that in 
very truth his wisdom is worth nothing at all.' 
And therefore I still go about testing and 
examining every man whom I think wise, 
whether he be a citizen or a stranger, as God 
has commanded me ; and whenever I find that 
he is not wise, I point out to him on the part 
of God that he is not wise. And I am so busy 
in this pursuit that I have never had leisure to 
take any part worth mentioning in public 
matters, or to look after my private affairs. I 
am in very great poverty by reason of my 
service to God. 

1 The expression <r6$os &vi)p, ' wise men,' was the 
general title at Athens for Natural Philosophers and 
Sophists, indifferently. Riddell, Introduction, p. xxxii. 


X. And besides this, the young men who follow 
me about, who are the sons of wealthy per- 
sons and have a great deal of spare time, 
take a natural pleasure in hearing men cross- 
examined : and they often imitate me among 
themselves : then they try their hands at cross- 
examining other people. And, I imagine, they 
find a great abundance of men who think that 
they know a great deal, when in fact they know 
little or nothing. And then the persons who 
are cross-examined, get angry with me instead 
of with themselves, and say that Socrates is an 
abominable fellow who corrupts young men. 
And when they are asked, ' Why, what does he 
do ? what does he teach ? ' they do not know 
what to say ; but, not to seem at a loss, they re- 
peat the stock charges against all philosophers, 
and allege that he investigates things in the 
air and under the earth, and that he teaches 
people to disbelieve in the gods, and ' to make 
the worse appear the better reason.' For, I 
fancy, they would not like to confess the truth, 
which is that they are shown up as ignorant pre- 
tenders to knowledge that they do not possess. 
And so they have been filling your ears with 
their bitter calumnies for a long time, for they 
are zealous and numerous and bitter against 
me ; and they are well disciplined and plausible 
in speech. On these grounds Meletus and 
Anytus and Lycon have attacked me. Meletus 
is indignant with me on the part of the poets, 
and Anytus on the part of the artizans and poli- 
24. ticians, and Lycon on the part of the orators. 


And so, as I said at the beginning, I shall be 
surprised if I am able, in the short time allowed 
me for my defence, to remove from your minds 
this prejudice which has grown so strong. 
What I have told you, Athenians, is the truth : 
I neither conceal, nor do I suppress anything, 
small or great. And yet I know that it is just 
this plainness of speech which makes me 
enemies. But that is only a proof that my 
words are true, and that the prejudice against 
me, and the causes of it, are what I have said. 
And whether you look for them now or here- 
after, you will find that they are so. 

What I have said must suffice as my defence XL 
against the charges of my first accusers. I 
will try next to defend myself against that 
'good patriot' Meletus, as he calls himself, 
and my later accusers. Let us assume that 
they are a new set of accusers, and read their 
indictment, as we did in the case of the others. 
It runs thus. He says that Socrates is an evil- 
doer who corrupts the youth, and who does not 
believe in the gods whom the city believes in, 
but in other new divinities. Such is the charge. 
Let us examine each point in it separately. 
Meletus says that I do wrong by corrupting 
the youth : but I say, Athenians, that he is 
doing wrong ; for he is playing off a solemn jest 
by bringing men lightly to trial, and pretending 
to have a great zeal and interest in matters to 
which he has never given a moment's thought. 
And now I will try to prove to you that it is so. 

Come here, Meletus. Is it not a fact that XII. 


you think it very important that the younger 
men should be as excellent as possible ? 

Meletus. It is. 

Socrates. Come then : tell the judges, who is 
it who improves them ? You take so much in- 
terest in the matter that of course you know 
that. You are accusing me, and bringing me 
to trial, because, as you say, you have dis- 
covered that I am the corrupter of the youth. 
Come now, reveal to the judges who improves 
them. You see, Meletus, you have nothing to 
say ; you are silent. But don't you think that 
this is a scandalous thing ? Is not your silence 
a conclusive proof of what I say, that you have 
never given a moment's thought to the matter ? 
Come, tell us, my good sir, who makes the 
young men better citizens ? 

Mel. The laws. 

Socr. My excellent sir, that is not my ques- 
tion. What man improves the young, who 
starts with a knowledge of the laws ? 

Mel. The judges here, Socrates. 

Socr. What do you mean, Meletus ? Can 
they educate the young and improve them ? 

Mel. Certainly. 

Socr. All of them ? or only some of them ? 

Mel. All of them. 

Socr. By Here that is good news ! There 
is a great abundance of benefactors. And do 
25. the listeners here improve them, or not ? 

Mel. They do. 

Socr. And do the senators ? 

Mel. Yes. 


Socr. Well then, Meletus ; do the members 
of the Assembly corrupt the younger men ? or 
do they again all improve them ? 

Mel. They too improve them. 

Socr. Then all the Athenians, apparently, 
make the young into fine fellows except me, and 
I alone corrupt them. Is that your meaning? 

Mel. Most certainly ; that is my meaning. 

Socr. You have discovered me to be a most 
unfortunate man. Now tell me : do you think 
that the same holds good in the case of horses ? 
Does one man do them harm and every one 
else improve them ? On the contrary, is it not 
one man only, or a very few namely, those 
who are skilled in horses who can improve 
them ; while the majority of men harm them, 
if they use them, and have to do with them ? 
Is it not so, Meletus, both with horses and with 
every other animal ? Of course it is, whether 
you and Anytus say yes or no. And young 
men would certainly be very fortunate persons 
if only one man corrupted them, and every one 
else did them good. The truth is, Meletus, 
you prove conclusively that you have never 
thought about the youth in your life. It is 
quite clear, on your own showing, that you take 
no interest at all in the matters about which 
you are prosecuting me. 

Now, be so good as to tell us, Meletus, is it XIII. 
better to live among good citizens or bad ones ? 
Answer, my friend : I am not asking you at all a 
difficult question. Do not bad citizens do harm 
to their neighbours and good citizens good ? 


Mel. Yes. 

Socr. Is there any man who would rather 
be injured than benefited by his companions ? 
Answer, my good sir : you are obliged by the 
law to answer. Does any one like to be 
injured ? 

Mel. Certainly not. 

Socr. Well then ; are you prosecuting me 
for corrupting the young, and making them 
worse men, intentionally or unintentionally ? 

Mel. For doing it intentionally. 

Socr. What, Meletus ? Do you mean to say 
that you, who are so much younger than I, are 
yet so much wiser than I, that you know that 
bad citizens always do evil, and that good 
citizens always do good, to those with whom 
they come in contact, while I am so extra- 
ordinarily stupid as not to know that if I make 
any of my companions a rogue, he will probably 
injure me in some way, and as to commit this 
great crime, as you allege, intentionally ? You 
will not make me believe that, nor any one 
else either, I should think. Either I do not 
26. corrupt the young at all ; or if I do, I do so 
unintentionally : so that you are a liar in either 
case. And if I corrupt them unintentionally, 
the law does not call upon you to prosecute 
me for a fault like that, which is an involuntary 
one : you should take me aside and admonish 
and instruct me : for of course I shall cease 
from doing wrong involuntarily, as soon as I 
know that I have been doing wrong. But 
you declined to instruct me : you would have 


nothing to do with me : instead of that, you 
bring me up before the Court, where the 
law sends persons, not for instruction, but for 

The truth is, Athenians, as I said, it is quite XIV. 
clear that Meletus has never paid the slightest 
attention to these matters. However, now tell 
us, Meletus, how do you say that I corrupt the 
younger men ? Clearly, according to your 
indictment, by teaching them not to believe in 
the gods of the city, but in other new divinities 
instead. You mean that I corrupt young men 
by that teaching, do you not ? 

Mel, Yes : most certainly ; I mean that. 

Socr. Then in the name of these gods of 
whom we are speaking, explain yourself a little 
more clearly to me and to the judges here. I 
cannot understand what you mean. Do you 
mean that I teach young men to believe in 
some gods, but not in the gods of the city ? 
Do you accuse me of teaching them to believe 
in strange gods ? If that is your meaning, I 
myself believe in some gods, and my crime is 
not that of absolute atheism. Or do you mean 
that I do not believe in the gods at all myself, 
and that I teach other people not to believe in 
them either ? 

Mel. I mean that you do not believe in the 
gods in any way whatever. 

Socr. Wonderful Meletus ! Why do you 
say that ? Do you mean that I believe neither 
the sun nor the moon to be gods, like other 
men ? 


Mel. I swear he does not, judges : he says 
that the sun is a stone, and the moon earth. 

Socr. My dear Meletus, do you think that 
you are prosecuting Anaxagoras ? You must 
have a very poor opinion of the judges, and 
think them very unlettered men, if you imagine 
that they do not know that the works of Anax- 
agoras of Clazomenae are full of these doctrines. 
And so young men learn these things from me, 
when they can often buy places in the theatre ' 
for a drachma at most, and laugh Socrates to 
scorn, were he to pretend that these doctrines, 
which are very peculiar doctrines too, were his. 
But please tell me, do you really think that I 
do not believe in the gods at all ? 

Mel. Most certainly I do. You are a 
complete atheist. 

Socr. No one believes that, Meletus, and I 
think that you know it to be a lie yourself. It 
seems to me, Athenians, that Meletus is a very 
insolent and wanton man, and that he is prose- 
cuting me simply in the insolence and wanton- 
ness of youth. He is like a man trying an 
27. experiment on me, by asking me a riddle that 
has no answer. ' Will this wise Socrates,' he 
says to himself, ' see that I am jesting and con- 
tradicting myself? or shall I outwit him and 
every one else who hears me ?' Meletus seems 

1 He alludes to the caricatures of Anaxagoras by 
Aristophanes, and other comic poets, and to tragedians 
like Euripides, who introduced the doctrines of Anaxagoras 
into their dramas. The doctrine that the sun is a stone 
is referred to in an extant play. Eurip. Orest. 971. 


to me to contradict himself in his indictment : 
it is as if he were to say, ' Socrates is a wicked 
man who does not believe in the gods, but who 
believes in the gods.' But that is mere trifling. 

Now, my friends, let us see why I think that XV, 
this is his meaning. Do you answer me, 
Meletus : and do you, Athenians, remember the 
request which I made to you at starting, and do 
not interrupt me if I talk in my usual way. 

Is there any man, Meletus, who believes in 
the existence of things pertaining to men and 
not in the existence of men ? Make him answer 
the question, my friends, without these absurd 
interruptions. Is there any man who believes 
in the existence of horsemanship and not in 
the existence of horses? or in flute -playing 
and not in flute-players ? There is not, my 
excellent sir. If you will not answer, I will tell 
both you and the judges that. But you must 
answer my next question. Is there any man 
who believes in the existence of divine things 
and not in the existence of divinities ? 

Mel. There is not. 

Socr. I am very glad that the judges have 
managed to extract an answer from you. Well 
then, you say that I believe in divine beings, 
whether they be old or new ones, and that I 
teach others to believe in them ; at any rate, 
according to your statement, I believe in divine 
beings. That you have sworn in your deposi- 
tion. But if I believe in divine beings, I sup- 
pose it follows necessarily that I believe in 
divinities. Is it not so ? It is. I assume that 


you grant that, as you do not answer. But do 
we not believe that divinities are either gods 
themselves or the children of the gods ? Do 
you admit that ? 

Mel. I do. 

Socr. Then you admit that I believe in 
divinities : now, if these divinities are gods, 
then, as I say, you are jesting and asking a 
riddle, and asserting that I do not believe in 
the gods, and at the same time that I do, since 
I believe in divinities. But if these divinities 
are the illegitimate children of the gods, either 
by the nymphs or by other mothers, as they 
are said to be, then, I ask, what man could 
believe in the existence of the children of the 
gods, and not in the existence of the gods ? 
That would be as strange as believing in the 
existence of the offspring of horses and asses, 
and not in the existence of horses and asses. 
You must have indicted me in this manner, 
Meletus, either to test my skill, or because you 
could not find any crime that you could accuse 
me of with truth. But you will never contrive 
to persuade any man, even of the smallest 
understanding, that a belief in divine things 
and things of the gods does not necessarily 
28. involve a belief in divinities, and in the gods, 

and in heroes. 

XVI. But in truth, Athenians, I do not think that 
I need say very much to prove that I have not 
committed the crime for which Meletus is 
prosecuting me. What I have said is enough 
to prove that. But, I repeat, it is certainly true, 


as I have already told you, that I have incurred 
much unpopularity and made many enemies. 
And that is what will cause my condemnation, 
if I am condemned ; not Meletus, nor Anytus 
either, but the prejudice and suspicion of the 
multitude. They have been the destruction of 
many good men before me, and I think that 
they will be so again. There is no fear that I 
shall be their last victim. 

Perhaps some one will say : ' Are you not 
ashamed, Socrates, of following pursuits which 
are very likely now to cause your death?' I 
should answer him with justice, and say : ' My 
friend, if you think that a man of any worth 
at all ought to reckon the chances of life and 
death when he acts, or that he ought to think 
of anything but whether he is acting rightly or 
wrongly, and as a good or a bad man would 
act, you are grievously mistaken. According 
to you, the demigods who died at Troy would 
be men of no great worth, and among them the 
son of Thetis, who thought nothing of danger 
when the alternative was disgrace. For when 
his mother, a goddess, addressed him, as he 
was burning to slay Hector, I suppose in this 
fashion, ' My son, if thou avengest the death of 
thy comrade Patroclus, and slayest Hector, 
thou wilt die thyself, for " fate awaits thee 
straightway after Hector's death ;'" he heard 
what she said, but he scorned danger and 
death ; he feared much more to live a coward, 
and not to avenge his friend. ' Let me punish 
the evil-doer and straightway die,' he said, 


' that I may not remain here by the beaked 
ships, a scorn of men, encumbering the earth.' 1 
Do you suppose that he thought of danger or 
of death ? For this, Athenians, I believe to be 
the truth. Wherever a man's post is, whether 
he has chosen it of his own will, or whether 
he has been placed at it by his commander, 
there it is his duty to remain and face the 
danger, without thinking of death, or of any 
other thing, except dishonour. 

XVII. When the generals whom you chose to com- 
mand me, Athenians, placed me at my post at 
Potidaea, and at Amphipolis, and at Delium, I 
remained where they placed me, and ran the 
risk of death, like other men : and it would be 
very strange conduct on my part if I were to 
desert my post now from fear of death or of 
any other thing, when God has commanded 
me, as I am persuaded that he has done, to 
29. spend my life in searching for wisdom, and in 
examining myself and others. That would in- 
deed be a very strange thing : and then cer- 
tainly I might with justice be brought to trial 
for not believing in the gods : for I should be 
disobeying the oracle, and fearing death, and 
thinking myself wise, when I was not wise. For 
to fear death, my friends, is only to think our- 
selves wise, without being wise : for it is to 
think that we know what we do not know. For 
anything that men can tell, death may be the 
greatest good that can happen to them : but 
they fear it as if they knew quite well that it 
1 Horn. //. xviii. 96, 98. 


was the greatest of evils. And what is this 
but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we 
know what we do not know ? In this matter 
too, my friends, perhaps I am different from 
the mass of mankind : and if I were to claim 
to be at all wiser than others, it would be 
because I do not think that I have any clear 
knowledge about the other world, when, in fact, 
I have none. But I do know very well that it 
is evil and base to do wrong, and to disobey 
my superior, whether he be man or god. And 
I will never do what I know to be evil, and 
shrink in fear from what, for all that I can tell, 
may be a good. And so, even if you acquit 
me now, and do not listen to Anytus' argu- 
ment that, if I am to be acquitted, I ought 
never to have been brought to trial at all ; and 
that, as it is, you are bound to put me to death, 
because, as he said, if I escape, all your child- 
ren will forthwith be utterly corrupted by 
practising what Socrates teaches ; if you were 
therefore to say to me, ' Socrates, this time we 
will not listen to Anytus : we will let you go 1 , 
but on this condition, that you cease from 
carrying on this search of yours, and from 
philosophy ; if you are found following those 
pursuits again, you shall die:' I say, if you 
offered to let me go on these terms, I should 
reply : ' Athenians, I hold you in the highest 
regard and love ; but I will obey God rather 
than you : and as long as I have breath and 
strength I will not cease from philosophy, and 
from exhorting you, and declaring the truth to 


every one of you whom I meet, saying, as I am 
wont, " My excellent friend, you are a citizen 
of Athens, a city which is very great and very 
famous for wisdom and power of mind ; are you 
not ashamed of caring so much for the making 
of money, and for reputation, and for honour ? 
Will you not think or care about wisdom, and 
truth, and the perfection of your soul?" And 
if he disputes my words, and says that he does 
care about these things, I shall not forthwith 
release him and go away : I shall question him 
and cross-examine him and test him : and if I 
think that he has not virtue, though he says 
that he has, I shall reproach him for setting 
30. the lower value on the most important things, 
and a higher value on those that are of less 
account. This I shall do to every one whom I 
meet, young or old, citizen or stranger : but 
more especially to the citizens, for they are 
more nearly akin to me. For, know well, God 
has commanded me to do so. And I think 
that no better piece of fortune has ever befallen 
you in Athens than my service to God. For 
I spend my whole life in going about and per- 
suading you all to give your first and chiefest 
care to the perfection of your souls, and not 
till you have done that to think of your bodies, 
or your wealth ; and telling you that virtue does 
not come from wealth, but that wealth, and 
every other good thing which men have, 
whether in public, or in private, comes from 
virtue. If then I corrupt the youth by this 
teaching, the mischief is great : but if any man 


says that I teach anything else, he speaks 
falsely. And therefore, Athenians, I say, either 
listen to Anytus, or do not listen to him : either 
acquit me, or do not acquit me : but be sure 
that I shall not alter my way of life ; no, not if 
I have to die for it many times. 

Do not interrupt me, Athenians. Remember XVIIL 
the request which I made to you, and listen to 
my words. I think that it will profit you to 
hear them. I am going to say something more 
to you, at which you may be inclined to cry 
out : but do not do that. Be sure that if you 
put me to death, who am what I have told 
you that I am, you will do yourselves more 
harm than me. Meletus and Anytus can do 
me no harm : that is impossible : for I am 
sure that God will not allow a good man to be 
injured by a bad one. They may indeed kill 
me, or drive me into exile, or deprive me of 
my civil rights ; and perhaps Meletus and others 
think those things great evils. But I do not 
think so : I think that it is a much greater evil 
to do what he is doing now, and to try to put 
a man to death unjustly. And now, Athenians, 
I am not arguing in my own defence at all, as 
you might expect me to do : I am trying to 
persuade you not to sin against God, by con- 
demning me, and rejecting his gift to you. For 
if you put me to death, you will not easily find 
another man to fill my place. God has sent 
me to attack the city, as if it were a great and 
noble horse, to use a quaint simile, which was 
rather sluggish from its size, and which needed 


to be aroused by a gadfly : and I think that I 
am the gadfly that God has sent to the city to 
attack it ; for I never cease from settling upon 
31. you, as it were, at every point, and rousing, 
and exhorting, and reproaching each man of 
you all day long. You will not easily find any 
one else, my friends, to fill my place : and if 
you take my advice, you will spare my life. 
You are vexed, as drowsy persons are, when 
they are awakened, and of course, if you listened 
to Anytus, you could easily kill me with a single 
blow, and then sleep on undisturbed for the 
rest of your lives, unless God were to care for 
you enough to send another man to arouse you. 
And you may easily see that it is God who has 
given me to your city : a mere human impulse 
would never have led me to neglect all my own 
interests, or to endure seeing my private affairs 
neglected now for so many years, while it made 
me busy myself unceasingly in your interests, 
and go to each man of you by himself, like a 
father, or an elder brother, trying to persuade 
him to care for virtue. There would have been 
a reason for it, if I had gained any advantage 
by this conduct, or if I had been paid for my 
exhortations ; but you see yourselves that my 
accusers, though they accuse me of everything 
else without blushing, have not had the effrontery 
to say that I ever either exacted or demanded 
payment. They could bring no evidence of 
that. And I think that I have sufficient evi- 
dence of the truth of what I say in my poverty. 
XIX. Perhaps it may seem strange to you that, 


though I am so busy in going about in private 
with my counsel, yet I do not venture to come 
forward in the assembly, and take part in the 
public councils. You have often heard me 
speak of my reason for this, and in many 
places : it is that I have a certain divine sign 
from God, which is the divinity that Meletus 
has caricatured in his indictment. I have had 
it from childhood : it is a kind of voice, which 
whenever I hear it, always turns me back from 
something which I was going to do, but never 
urges me to act. It is this which forbids 
me to take part in politics. And I think that 
it does well to forbid me. For, Athenians, it 
is quite certain that if I had attempted to take 
part in politics, I should have perished at once 
and long ago, without doing any good either to 
you or to myself. And do not be vexed with 
me for telling the truth. There is no man who 
will preserve his life for long, either in Athens 
or elsewhere, if he firmly opposes the wishes of 
the people, and tries to prevent the commission 
of much injustice and illegality in the State. 
He who would really fight for justice, must do 32. 
so as a private man, not in public, if he means 
to preserve his life, even for a short time. 

I will prove to you that this is so by very XX. 
strong evidence, not by mere words, but by 
what you value highly, actions. Listen then 
to what has happened to me, that you may 
know that there is no man who could make me 
consent to do wrong from the fear of death ; 
but that I would perish at once rather than give 


way. What I am going to tell you may be a 
commonplace in the Courts of Law ; neverthe- 
less it is true. The only office that I ever held 
in the State, Athenians, was that of Senator. 
When you wished to try the ten generals, who 
did not rescue their men after the battle of 
Arginusae, in a body, which was illegal, as you 
all came to think afterwards, the tribe Antiochis, 
to which I belong, held the presidency. On 
that occasion I alone of all the presidents op- 
posed your illegal action, and gave my vote 
against you. The speakers were ready to sus- 
pend me and arrest me ; and you were clamour- 
ing against me, and crying out to me to submit. 
But I thought that I ought to face the danger 
out in the cause of law and justice, rather than 
join with you in your unjust proposal, from fear 
of imprisonment or death. That was before 
the destruction of the democracy. When the 
oligarchy came, the Thirty sent for me, with 
four others, to the Council -Chamber, 1 and 
ordered us to bring over Leon the Salaminian 
from Salamis, that they might put him to death. 
They were in the habit of frequently giving 
similar orders to many others, wishing to im- 
plicate as many men as possible in their crimes. 
But then I again proved, not by mere words, 
but by my actions, that, if I may use a vulgar 
expression, I do not care a straw for death ; but 
that I do care very much indeed about not do- 
ing anything against the laws of God or man. 

1 A building where the Prytanes had their meals and 


That government with all its power did not 
terrify me into doing anything wrong ; but 
when we left the Council-Chamber, the other 
four went over to Salamis, and brought Leon 
across to Athens ; and I went away home : and 
if the rule of the Thirty had not been destroyed 
soon afterwards, I should very likely have been 
put to death for what I did then. Many of 
you will be my witnesses in this matter. 

Now do you think that I should have re- XXL 
mained alive all these years, if I had taken part 
in public affairs, and had always maintained 
the cause of justice like an honest man, and 
had held it a paramount duty, as it is, to do 
so ? Certainly not, Athenians, nor any other 
man either. But throughout my whole life, 33. 
both in private, and in public, whenever I have 
had to take part in public affairs, you will find 
that I have never yielded a single point in a 
question of right and wrong to any man ; no, 
not to those whom my enemies falsely assert to 
have been my pupils. 1 But I was never any 
man's teacher. I have never withheld myself 
from any one, young or old, who was anxious 
to hear me converse while I was about my 
mission ; neither do I converse for payment, 
and refuse to converse without payment : I 
am ready to ask questions of rich and poor 
alike, and if any man wishes to answer me, 
and then listen to what I have to say, he may. 
And I cannot justly be charged with causing 

1 The reference is specially to Critias, the leading 
man in the Oligarchy of Thirty, and to Alcibiades. 


these men to turn out good or bad citizens : 
for I never either taught, or professed to teach 
any of them any knowledge whatever. And if 
any man asserts that he ever learnt or heard 
any thing from me in private, which every one 
else did not hear as well as he, be sure that he 
does not speak the truth. 

XXII. Why is it, then, that people delight in spend- 
ing so much time in my company ? You have 
heard why, Athenians. I told you the whole 
truth when I said that they delight in hearing 
me examine persons who think that they are 
wise when they are not wise. It is certainly 
very amusing to listen to that. And, I say, 
God has commanded me to examine men in 
oracles, and in dreams, and in every way in 
which the divine will was ever declared to man. 
This is the truth, Athenians, and if it were not 
the truth, it would be easily refuted. For if 
it were really the case that I have already 
corrupted some of the young men, and am now 
corrupting others, surely some of them, finding 
as they grew older that I had given them evil 
counsel in their youth, would have come forward 
to-day to accuse me and take their revenge. 
Or if they were unwilling to do so themselves, 
surely their kinsmen, their fathers, or brothers, 
or other relatives, would, if I had done them 
any harm, have remembered it, and taken their 
revenge. Certainly I see many of them in 
Court. Here is Crito, of my own deme and of 
my own age, the father of Critobulus ; here is 
Lysanias of Sphettus, the father of yEschinus : 


here is also Antiphon of Cephisus, the father 
of Epigenes. Then here are others, whose 
brothers have spent their time in my company ; 
Nicostratus, the son of Theozotides, and brother 
of Theodotus and Theodotus is dead, so he 
at least cannot entreat his brother to be silent : 
here is Paralus, the son of Demodocus, and 
the brother of Theages : here is Adeimantus, 34. 
the son of Ariston, whose brother is Plato 
here : and ^antodorus, whose brother is 
Aristodorus. And I can name many others to 
you, some of whom Meletus ought to have 
called as witnesses in the course of his own 
speech : but if he forgot to call them then, let 
him call them now I will stand aside while 
he does so and tell us if he has any such 
evidence. No, on the contrary, my friends, 
you will find all these men ready to support 
me, the corrupter, the injurer of their kindred, 
as Meletus and Anytus call me. Those of 
them who have been already corrupted might 
perhaps have some reason for supporting me : 
but what reason can their relatives, who are 
grown up, and who are uncorrupted, have, 
except the reason of truth and justice, that they 
know very well that Meletus is a liar, and that 
I am speaking the truth ? 

Well, my friends, this, together it may be XXIII. 
with other things of the same nature, is pretty 
much what I have to say in my defence. 
There may be some one among you who will 
be vexed when he remembers how, even in a 
less important trial than this, he prayed and 


entreated the judges to acquit him with many 
tears, and brought forward his children and 
many of his friends and relatives in Court, in 
order to appeal to your feelings ; and then 
finds that I shall do none of these things, 
though I am in what he would think the 
supreme danger. Perhaps he will harden 
himself against me when he notices this : it 
may make him angry, and he may give his vote 
in anger. If it is so with any of you I do not 
suppose that it is, but in case it should be so 
I think that I should answer him reasonably if 
I said : ' My friend, I have kinsmen too, for, 
in the words of Homer, 1 " I am not born of 
stocks and stones," but of woman ; ' and so, 
Athenians, I have kinsmen, and I have three 
sons, one of them a lad, and the other two still 
children. Yet I will not bring any of them 
forward before you, and implore you to acquit 
me. And why will I do none of these things ? 
It is not from arrogance, Athenians, nor because 
I hold you cheap: whether or no I can face 
death bravely is another question : but for my 
own credit, and for your credit, and for the credit 
of our city, I do not think it well, at my age, 
and with my name, to do anything of that kind. 
Rightly or wrongly, men have made up their 
minds that in some way Socrates is different 
35. from the mass of mankind. And it will be a 
shameful thing if those of you who are thought 
to excel in wisdom, or in bravery, or in any other 
virtue, are going to act in this fashion. I have 
1 Od. xix. 163. 


often seen men with a reputation behaving in 
a strange way at their trial, as if they thought it 
a terrible fate to be killed, and as though they 
expected to live for ever, if you did not put 
them to death. Such men seem to me to 
bring discredit on the city : for any stranger 
would suppose that the best and most eminent 
Athenians, who are selected by their fellow- 
citizens to hold office, and for other honours, 
are no better than women. Those of you, Atheni- 
ans, who have any reputation at all, ought not 
to do these things : and you ought not to allow 
us to do them : you should show that you will 
be much more merciless to men who make the 
city ridiculous by these pitiful pieces of acting, 
than to men who remain quiet. 

But apart from the question of credit, my XXIV. 
friends, I do not think that it is right to en- 
treat the judge to acquit us, or to escape con- 
demnation in that way. It is our duty to 
convince his mind by reason. He does not 
sit to give away justice to his friends, but to 
pronounce judgment : and he has sworn not to 
favour any man whom he would like to favour, 
but to decide questions according to law. And 
therefore we ought not to teach you to for- 
swear yourselves ; and you ought not to allow 
yourselves to be taught, for then neither you 
nor we would be acting righteously. There- 
fore, Athenians, do not require me to do these 
things, for I believe them to be neither good 
nor just nor holy ; and, more especially do not 
ask me to do them to-day, when Meletus 


is prosecuting me for impiety. For were I to 
be successful, and to prevail on you by my 
prayers to break your oaths, I should be clearly 
teaching you to believe that there are no gods ; 
and I should be simply accusing myself by 
my defence of not believing in them. But, 
Athenians, that is very far from the truth. I 
do believe in the gods as no one of my 
accusers believes in them : and to you and to 
God I commit my cause to be decided as is 
best for you and for me. 

(He is found guilty by 281 votes to 220.} 

XXV. I am not vexed at the verdict which you 
36. have given, Athenians, for many reasons. I 
expected that you would find me guilty; and I 
am not so much surprised at that, as at the 
numbers of the votes. I, certainly, never 
thought that the majority against me would 
have been so narrow. But now it seems 
that if only thirty votes had changed sides, I 
should have escaped. So I think that I have 
escaped Meletus, as it is : and not only have I 
escaped him ; for it is perfectly clear that if 
Anytus and Lycon had not come forward to 
accuse me too, he would not have obtained the 
fifth part of the votes, and would have had to 
pay a fine of a thousand drachmae. 1 

J . Any prosecutor who did not obtain the votes of 
one-fifth of the dicasts or judges, incurred a fine of 1000 
drachmae, and certain other disabilities. Cf, Diet. 
Antiq. s.v. ypa<f>rj. 


So he proposes death as the penalty. Be XXVI. 
it so. And what counter- penalty shall I 
propose to you, Athenians ? What I deserve, 
of course, must I not ? What then do I 
deserve to pay or to suffer for having deter- 
mined not to spend my life in ease ? I 
neglected the things which most men value, 
such as wealth, and family interests, and 
military commands, and popular oratory, and 
all the political appointments, and clubs, and 
factions, that there are in Athens ; for I thought 
that I was really too conscientious a man to 
preserve my life if I engaged in these matters. 
So I did not go where I should have done no 
good either to you or to myself. I went 
instead to each one of you by himself, to do 
him, as I say, the greatest of services, and 
strove to persuade him not to think of his 
affairs, until he had thought of himself, and 
tried to make himself as perfect and wise as 
possible ; nor to think of the affairs of Athens, 
until he had thought of Athens herself; and 
in all cases to bestow his thoughts on things 
in the same manner. Then what do I deserve 
for such a life ? Something good, Athenians, 
if I am really to propose what I deserve ; and 
something good which it would be suitable to me 
to receive. Then what is a suitable reward to 
be given to a poor benefactor, who requires 
leisure to exhort you ? There is no reward, 
Athenians, so suitable for him as a public 
maintenance in the Prytaneum. It is a much 
more suitable reward for him than for any of 


you who has won a victory at the Olympic 
games with his horse or his chariots. Such a 
man only makes you seem happy, but I make 
you really happy : and he is not in want, and 
I am. So if I am to propose the penalty 
37. which I really deserve, I propose this, a public 

maintenance in the Prytaneum. 

XXVII. Perhaps you think me stubborn and arrogant 
in what I am saying now, as in what I said 
about the entreaties and tears. It is not so, 
Athenians ; it is rather that I am convinced 
that I never wronged any man intentionally, 
though I cannot persuade you of that, for we 
have conversed together only a little time. If 
there were a law at Athens, as there is else- 
where, not to finish a trial of life and death in 
a single day, I think that I could have con- 
vinced you of it : but now it is not easy in 
so short a time to clear myself of the gross 
calumnies of my enemies. But when I am 
convinced that I have never wronged any man, 
I shall certainly not wrong myself, or admit 
that I deserve to suffer any evil, or propose 
any evil for myself as a penalty. Why should 
I ? Lest I should suffer the penalty which 
Meletus proposes, when I say that I do not 
know whether it is a good or an evil ? Shall 
I choose instead of it something which I know 
to be an evil,, and propose that as a penalty ? 
Shall I propose imprisonment ? And why 
should I pass the rest of my days in prison, 
the slave of successive officials ? Or shall I 
propose a fine, with imprisonment until it is 


paid ? I have told you why I will not do that. 
I should have to remain in prison for I have 
no money to pay a fine with. Shall I then 
propose exile ? Perhaps you would agree to 
that. Life would indeed be very dear to 
me, if I were unreasonable enough to expect 
that strangers would cheerfully tolerate my 
discussions and reasonings, when you who are 
my fellow -citizens cannot endure them, and 
have found them so burdensome and odious to 
you, that you are seeking now to be released 
from them. No, indeed, Athenians, that is 
not likely. A fine life I should lead for an old 
man, if I were to withdraw from Athens, and 
pass the rest of my days in wandering from 
city to city, and continually being expelled. 
For I know very well that the young men will 
listen to me, wherever I go, as they do here ; 
and if I drive them away, they will persuade 
their elders to expel me : and if I do not drive 
them away, their fathers and kinsmen will 
expel me for their sakes. 

Perhaps some one will say, ' Why cannot XXVIII. 
you withdraw from Athens, Socrates, and hold 
your peace ? ' It is the most difficult thing in 
the world to make you understand why I can- 
not do that. If I say that I cannot hold my 
peace, because that would be to disobey God, 
you will think that I am not in earnest and 
will not believe me. And if I tell you that no 38. 
better thing can happen to a man than to 
converse every day about virtue and the other 
matters about which you have heard me con- 


versing and examining myself and others, and 
that an unexamined life is not worth living, then 
you will believe me still less. But that is the 
truth, my friends, though it is not easy to con- 
vince you of it. And, what is more, I am not 
accustomed to think that I deserve any punish- 
ment. If I had been rich, I would have pro- 
posed as large a fine as I could pay : that 
would have done me no harm. But I am not 
rich enough to pay a fine, unless you are 
willing to fix it at a sum within my means. 
Perhaps I could pay you a mina : l so I propose 
that. Plato here, Athenians, and Crito, and 
Critobulus, and Apollodorus bid me propose 
thirty minas, and they will be sureties for me. 
So I propose thirty rninas. They will be 
sufficient sureties to you for the money. 

(He is condemned to death.} 

XXIX. You have not gained very much time, 
Athenians, and, as the price of it, you will 
have an evil name from all who wish to revile 
the city, and they will cast in your teeth that 
you put Socrates, a wise man, to death. For 
they will certainly call me wise, whether I am 
wise or not, when they want to reproach you. 
If you would have waited for a little while, your 
wishes would have been fulfilled in the course 
of nature ; for you see that I am an old man, 
far advanced in years, and near to death. I 
am speaking not to all of you, only to those 
who have voted for my death. And now I am 
1 A mina was equivalent then to ,4 : i : 3. 


speaking to them still. Perhaps, my friends, 
you think that I have been defeated because I 
was wanting in the arguments by which I could 
have persuaded you to acquit me, if, that is, I 
had thought it right to do or to say anything 
to escape punishment. It is not so. I have 
been defeated because I was wanting, not in 
arguments, but in overboldness and effrontery : 
because I would not plead before you as you 
would have liked to hear me plead, or appeal 
to you with weeping and wailing, or say and 
do many other things, which I maintain are 
unworthy of me, but which you have been 
accustomed to from other men. But when I 
was defending myself, I thought that I ought 
not to do anything unmanly because of the 
danger which I ran, and I have not changed 
my mind now. I would very much rather 
defend myself as I did, and die, than as you 
would have had me do, and live. Both in a 
law suit, and in war, there are some things 
which neither I nor any other man may do in 39. 
order to escape from death. In battle a man 
often sees that he may at least escape from 
death by throwing down his arms and falling 
on his knees before the pursuer to beg for his 
life. And there are many other ways of avoid- 
ing death in every danger, if a man will not 
scruple to say and to do anything. But, my 
friends, I think that it is a much harder thing 
to escape from wickedness than from death ; 
for wickedness is swifter than death. And now 
I, who am old and slow, have been overtaken 


by the slower pursuer : and my accusers, who 
are clever and swift, have been overtaken by 
the swifter pursuer, which is wickedness. And 
now I shall go hence, sentenced by you to 
death ; and they will go hence, sentenced by 
truth to receive the penalty of wickedness and 
evil. And I abide by this award as well as 
they. Perhaps it was right for these things 
to be so : and I think that they are fairly 

XXX. And now I wish to prophesy to you, Athen- 
ians who have condemned me. For I am 
going to die, and that is the time when men 
have most prophetic power. And I prophesy 
to you who have sentenced me to death, that a 
far severer punishment than you have inflicted 
on me, will surely overtake you as soon as I am 
dead. You have done this thing, thinking that 
you will be relieved from having to give an 
account of your lives. But I say that the 
result will be very different from that. There 
will be more men who will call you to account, 
whom I have held back, and whom you did 
not see. And they will be harder masters to 
you than I have been, for they will be younger, 
and you will be more angry with them. For if 
you think that you will restrain men from 
reproaching you for your evil lives by putting 
them to death, you are very much mistaken. 
That way of escape is hardly possible, and it is 
not a good one. It is much better, and much 
easier, not to silence reproaches, but to make 
yourselves as perfect as you can. This is my 


parting prophecy to you who have condemned 

With you who have acquitted me I should XXXI. 
like to converse touching this thing that has 
come to pass, while the authorities are busy, 
and before I go to the place where I have to 
die. So, I pray you, remain with me until I 
go hence : there is no reason why we should 
not converse with each other while it is possible. 
I wish to explain to you, as my friends, the 40. 
meaning of what has befallen me. A wonder- 
ful thing has happened to me, judges for you 
I am right in calling judges. 1 The prophetic 
sign, which I am wont to receive from the 
divine voice, has been constantly with me all 
through my life till now, opposing me in quite 
small matters if I were not going to act rightly. 
And now you yourselves see what has happened 
to me ; a thing which might be thought, and 
which is sometimes actually reckoned, the 
supreme evil. But the sign of God did not 
withstand me when I was leaving my house in 
the morning, nor when I was coming up hither 
to the Court, nor at any point in my speech, 
when I was going to say anything : though at 
other times it has often stopped me in the very 
act of speaking. But now, in this matter, it has 
never once withstood me, either in my words or 
my actions. I will tell you what I believe to 
be the reason of that. This thing that has 
come upon me must be a good : and those 

1 The form of address hitherto has always been 
'Athenians,' or 'my friends' (&v$p(s). 


of us who think that death is an evil must 
needs be mistaken. I have a clear proof that 
that is so ; for my accustomed sign would cer- 
tainly have opposed me, if I had not been 
going to fare well. 

XXXII. And if we reflect in another way we shall see 
that we may well hope that death is a good. 
For the state of death is one of two things : 
either the dead man wholly ceases to be, and 
loses all sensation ; or, according to the common 
belief, it is a change and a migration of the 
soul unto another place. And if death is the 
absence of all sensation, and like the sleep of 
one whose slumbers are unbroken by any 
dreams, it will be a wonderful gain. For if a 
man had to select that night in which he slept 
so soundly that he did not even see any dreams, 
and had to compare with it all the other nights 
and days of his life, and then had to say how 
many days and nights in his life he had spent 
better and more pleasantly than this night, I 
think that a private person, nay, even the great 
King l himself, would find them easy to count, 
compared with the others. If that is the nature 
of death, I for one count it a gain. For then 
it appears that eternity is nothing more than a 
single night. But if death is a journey to 
another place, and the common belief be true, 
that there are all who have died, what good 
could be greater than this, my judges ? Would 
a journey not be worth taking, at the end of 
which, in the other world, we should be released 
1 Of Persia. 


from the self-styled judges who are here, and 41 
should find the true judges, who are said to sit 
in judgment below, such as Minos, and Rhada- 
manthus, and ^Eacus, and Triptolemus, and 
the other demi-gods who were just in their 
lives ? Or what would you not give to con- 
verse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod 
and Homer? I am willing to die many times, 
if this be true. And for my own part I should 
have a wonderful interest in meeting there 
Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and 
the other men of old who have died through an 
unjust judgment, and in comparing my experi- 
ences with theirs. That I think would be no 
small pleasure. And, above all, I could spend 
my time in examining those who are there, as 
I examine men here, and in finding out which 
of them is wise, and which of them thinks him- 
self wise, when he is not wise. What would 
we not give, my judges, to be able to examine 
the leader of the great expedition against Troy, 
or Odysseus, or Sisyphus, or countless other 
men and women whom we could name? It 
would be an infinite happiness to converse with 
them, and to live with them, and to examine 
them. Assuredly there they do not put men to 
death for doing that. For besides the other 
ways in which they are happier than we are, 
they are immortal, at least if the common 
belief be true. 

And you too, judges, must face death with a XXXIII. 
good courage, and believe this as a truth, that 
no evil can happen to a good man, either in life, 


or after death. His fortunes are not neglected 
by the gods ; and what has come to me to-day 
has not come by chance. I am persuaded that 
it was better for me to die now, and to be 
released from trouble : and that was the reason 
why the sign never turned me back. And so 
I am hardly angry with my accusers, or with 
those who have condemned me to die. Yet it 
was not with this mind that they accused me 
and condemned me, but meaning to do me an 
injury. So far I may find fault with them. 

Yet I have one request to make of them. 
When my sons grow up, visit them with punish- 
ment, my friends, and vex them in the same 
way that I have vexed you, if they seem to you 
to care for riches, or fcr any other thing, before 
virtue : and if they think that they are some- 
thing, when they are nothing at all, reproach 
them, as I have reproached you, for not caring 
for what they should, and for thinking that they 
are great men when in fact they are worthless. 
And if you will do this, I myself and my sons 
will have received our deserts at your hands. 

But now the time has come, and we must 
go hence ; I to die, and you to live. Whether 
life or death is better is known to God, and to 
God only. 




SCENE. The prison of Socrates. 


Socr, Why have you come at this hour, Crito? CHAP. I. 
Is it not still early ? Steph. 

Crito. Yes, very early. p - 43> 

Socr. About what time is it ? 

Crito. It is just day-break. 

Socr. I wonder that the jailor was willing to 
let you in. 

Crito. He knows me now, Socrates, I come 
here so often ; and besides, I have done him a 

Socr. Have you been here long ? 

Crito. Yes ; some time. 

Socr. Then why did you sit down without 
speaking ? why did you not wake me at once ? 

Crito. Indeed, Socrates, I wish that I my- 
self were not so sleepless and sorrowful. But 
I have been wondering to see how sweetly you 
sleep. And I purposely did not wake you, for 
I was anxious not to disturb your repose. Often 
before, all through your life, I have thought that 
your temper was a happy one ; and I think so 
more than ever now, when I see how easily and 
calmly you bear the calamity that has come to 


82 CRITO. 

Socr. Nay, Crito, it would be absurd if at 
my age I were angry at having to die. 

Crito. Other men as old are overtaken by 
similar calamities, Socrates ; but their age does 
not save them from being angry with their fate. 

Socr. That is so : but tell me, why are you 
here so early ? 

Crito. I am the bearer of bitter news, Soc- 
rates : not bitter, it seems, to you ; but to me, 
and to all your friends, both bitter and grievous : 
and to none of them, I think, is it more grievous 
than to me. 

Socr. What is it ? Has the ship come from 
Delos, at the arrival of which I am to die ? 

Crito. No, it has not actually arrived : but 
I think that it will be here to-day, from the 
news which certain persons have brought from 
Sunium, who left it there. It is clear from 
their news that it will be here to-day ; and then, 
Socrates, to-morrow your life will have to end. 
II. Socr. Well, Crito, may it end fortunately. 
Be it so, if so the gods will. But I do not 
44. think that the ship will be here to-day. 

Crito. Why do you suppose not ? 

Socr. I will tell you. I am to die on the day 
after the ship arrives, am I not ? 

Crito. That is what the authorities say. 

Socr. Then I do not think that it will come 
to-day, but to-morrow. I judge from a certain 
dream which I saw a little while ago in the 
night: so it seems to be fortunate that you did 
not wake me. 

Crito. And what was this dream ? 

CRITO. 83 

Socr. A fair and comely woman, clad in 
white garments, seemed to come to me, and 
call me and say, " O Socrates 

'The third day hence shall thou fair Phthia reach.' 1Fl 

Crito. What a strange dream, Socrates ! 

Socr. But its meaning is clear ; at least to 
me, Crito. 

Crito. Yes, too clear, it seems. But, O my III. 
good Socrates, I beseech you for the last time 
to listen to me and save yourself. For to me 
your death will be more than a single disaster: 
not only shall I lose a friend the like of whom 
I shall never find again, but many persons, who 
do not know you and me well, will think that I 
might have saved you if I had been willing to 
spend money, but that I neglected to do so. 
And what character could be more disgraceful 
than the character of caring more for money 
than for one's friends ? The world will never 
believe that we were anxious to save you, but 
that you yourself refused to escape. 

Socr. But, my excellent Crito, why should we 
care so much about the opinion of the world ? 
The best men, of whose opinion it is worth our 
while to think, will believe that we acted as we 
really did. 

Crito. But you see, Socrates, that it is neces- 
sary to care about the opinion of the world too. 
This very thing that has happened to you proves 
that the multitude can do a man not the least, 

1 Horn. //. ix. 363. 

84 CRITO. 

but almost the greatest harm, if he be falsely 
accused to them. 

Socr. I wish that the multitude were able to 
do a man the greatest harm, Crito, for then they 
would be able to do him the greatest good too. 
That would have been well. But, as it is, they 
can do neither. They cannot make a man either 
wise or foolish : they act wholly at random. 
IV. Crito. Well, be it so. But tell me this, 
Socrates. You surely are not anxious about 
me and your other friends, and afraid lest, if you 
escape, the informers should say that we stole 
you away, and get us into trouble, and involve 
us in a great deal of expense, or perhaps in the 
loss of all our property, and, it may be, bring 
some other punishment upon us besides ? If 
45. you have any fear of that kind, dismiss it. For 
of course we are bound to run those risks, and 
still greater risks than those if necessary, in 
saving you. So do not, I beseech you, refuse 
to listen to me. 

Socr. I am anxious about that, Crito, and 
about much besides. 

Crito. Then have no fear on that score. 
There are men who, for no very large sum, are 
ready to bring you out of prison into safety. 
And then, you know, these informers are cheaply 
bought, and there would be no need to spend 
much upon them. My fortune is at your service, 
and I think that it is sufficient : and if you have 
any feeling about making use of my money, 
there are strangers in Athens, whom you know, 
ready to use theirs ; and one of them, Simmias 

CRITO. 85 

of Thebes, has actually brought enough for this 
very purpose. And Cebes and many others 
are ready too. And therefore, I repeat, do not 
shrink from saving yourself on that ground. 
And do not let what you said in the Court, that 
if you went into exile you would not know what 
to do with yourself, stand in your way ; for 
there are many places for you to go to, where 
you will be welcomed. If you choose to go to 
Thessaly, I have friends there who will make 
much of you, and shelter you from any annoy- 
ance from the people of Thessaly. 

And besides, Socrates, I think that you will V. 
be doing what is wrong, if you abandon your 
life when you might preserve it. You are 
simply playing the game of your enemies ; it is 
exactly the game of those who wanted to destroy 
you. And what is more, to me you seem to be 
abandoning your children too : you will leave 
them to take their chance in life, as far as 
you are concerned, when you might bring them 
up and educate them. Most likely their fate 
will be the usual fate of children who are left 
orphans. But you ought not to beget children 
unless you mean to take the trouble of bringing 
them up and educating them. It seems to me 
that you are choosing the easy way, and not the 
way of a good and brave man, as you ought, 
when you have been talking all your life long of 
the value that you set upon virtue. For my 
part, I feel ashamed both for you, and for us 
who are your friends. Men will think that the 
whole of this thing which has happened to you 

86 CRITO. 

your appearance in court to take your trial, 
when you need not have appeared at all ; the 
very way in which the trial was conducted ; and 
then lastly this, for the crowning absurdity of 
the whole affair, is due to our cowardice. It 
will look as if we had shirked the danger out of 

46. miserable cowardice ; for we did not save you, 
and you did not save yourself, when it was quite 
possible to do so, if we had been good for any- 
thing at all. Take care, Socrates, lest these 
things be not evil only, but also dishonourable 
to you and to us. Consider then ; or rather 
the time for consideration is past ; we must 
resolve ; and there is only one plan possible. 
Everything must be done to-night. If we delay 
any longer, we are lost. O Socrates, I implore 
you not to refuse to listen to me. 

VI. Socr. My dear Crito, if your anxiety to save 
me be right, it is most valuable : but if it be not 
right, its greatness makes it all the more danger- 
ous. We must consider then whether we are 
to do as you say, or not ; for I am still what I 
always have been, a man who will listen to no 
voice but the voice of the reasoning which on 
consideration I find to be truest. I cannot cast 
aside my former arguments because this mis- 
fortune has come to me. They seem to me to 
be as true as ever they were, and I hold exactly 
the same ones in honour and esteem as I used 
to : and if we have no better reasoning to sub- 
stitute for them, I certainly shall not agree to 
your proposal, not even though the power of the 
multitude should scare us with fresh terrors, as 

CRITO. 87 

children are scared with hobgoblins, and inflict 
upon us new fines, and imprisonments, and 
deaths. How then shall we most fitly examine 
the question ? Shall we go back first to what 
you say about the opinions of men, and ask if 
we used to be right in thinking that we ought 
to pay attention to some opinions, and not to 
others ? Used we to be right in saying so 
before I was condemned to die, and has it now 
become apparent that we were talking at ran- 
dom, and arguing for the sake of argument, and 
that it was really nothing but play and nonsense? 
I am anxious, Crito, to examine our former 
reasoning with your help, and to see whether 
my present position will appear to me to have 
affected its truth in any way, or not ; and 
whether we are to set it aside, or to yield assent 
to it. Those of us who thought at all seriously, 
used always to say, I think, exactly what I said 
just now, namely, that we ought to esteem some 
of the opinions which men form highly, and not 
others. Tell me, Crito, if you please, do you 
not think that they were right ? For you, 47. 
humanly speaking, will not have to die to- 
morrow, and your judgment will not be biassed 
by that circumstance. Consider then : do you 
not think it reasonable to say that we should not 
esteem all the opinions of men, but only some, 
nor the opinions of all men, but only of some 
men ? What do you think ? Is not this true? 

Crito. It is. 

Socr. And we should esteem the good 
opinions, and not the worthless ones ? 

88 CRITO. 

Crito. Yes. 

Socr. But the good opinions are those of 
the wise, and the worthless ones those of the 
foolish ? 

Crito. Of course. 

VII. Socr. And what used we to say about this ? 
Does a man who is in training, and who is in 
earnest about it, attend to the praise and blame 
and opinion of all men, or of the one man only 
who is a doctor or a trainer ? 

Crito. He attends only to the opinion of the 
one man. 

Socr. Then he ought to fear the blame and 
welcome the praise of this one man, not of the 

Crito. Clearly. 

Socr. Then he must act and exercise, and 
eat and drink in whatever way the one man 
who is his master, and who understands the 
matter, bids him ; not as others bid him ? 

Crito. That is so. 

Socr. Good. But if he disobeys this one 
man, and disregards his opinion and his praise, 
and esteems instead what the many, who under- 
stand nothing of the matter, say, will he not 
suffer for it ? 

Crito. Of course he will. 

Socr. And how will he suffer? In what 
direction, and in what part of himself? 

Crito. Of course in his body. That is 

Socr. You are right. And, Crito, to be 
brief, is it not the same, in everything ? And, 

CRITO. 89 

therefore, in questions of right and wrong, and 
of the base and the honourable, and of good 
and evil, which we are now considering, ought 
we to follow the opinion of the many and fear 
that, or the opinion of the one man who under- 
stands these matters (if we can find him), and 
feel more shame and fear before him than 
before all other men ? For if we do not follow 
him, we shall cripple and maim that part of us 
which, we used to say, is improved by right 
and disabled by wrong. Or is this not so ? 

Crito. No, Socrates, I agree with you. 

Socr. Now, if, by listening to the opinions VIII 
of those who do not understand, we disable 
that part of us which is improved by health 
and crippled by disease, is our life worth living, 
when it is crippled ? It is the body, is it not ? 

Crito. Yes. 

Socr. Is life worth living with the body 
crippled and in a bad state ? 

Crito. No, certainly not. 

Socr. Then is life worth living when that 
part of us which is maimed by wrong and 
benefited by right is crippled ? Or do we con- 
sider that part of us, whatever it is, which has 
to do with right and wrong to be of less con- 48. 
sequence than our body ? 

Crito. No, certainly not. 

Socr. But more valuable ? 

Crito. Yes, much more so. 

Socr. Then, my excellent friend, we must 
not think so much of what the many will say 
of us ; we must think of what the one man, 

90 CRITO. 

who understands right and wrong, and of what 
Truth herself will say of us. And so you are 
mistaken to begin with, when you invite us to 
regard the opinion of the multitude concerning 
the right and the honourable and the good, 
and their opposites. But, it may be said, the 
multitude can put us to death ? 

Crito. Yes, that is evident. That may be 
said, Socrates. 

Socr. True. But, my excellent friend, to 
me it appears that the conclusion which we 
have just reached, is the same as our conclusion 
of former times. Now consider whether we 
still hold to the belief, that we should set the 
highest value, not on living, but on living 
well ? 

Crito. Yes, we do. 

Socr. And living well and honourably and 
rightly mean the same thing : do we hold to 
that or not ? 

Crito. We do. 

IX. Socr. Then, starting from these premises, 
we have to consider whether it is right or not 
right for me to try to escape from prison, with- 
out the consent of the Athenians. If we find 
that it is right, we will try : if not, we will let 
it alone. I am afraid that considerations of 
expense, and of reputation, and of bringing up 
my children, of which you talk, Crito, are only 
the reflections of our friends, the many, who 
lightly put men to death, and who would, if 
they could, as lightly bring them to life again, 
without a thought. But reason, which is our 

CRITO. 91 

guide, shows us that we can have nothing to 
consider but the question which I asked just 
now : namely, shall we be doing right if we 
give money and thanks to the men who are to 
aid me in escaping, and if we ourselves take 
our respective parts in my escape ? Or shall 
we in truth be doing wrong, if we do all this ? 
And if we find that we should be doing wrong, 
then we must not take any account either of 
death, or of any other evil that may be the 
consequence of remaining quietly here, but only 
of doing wrong. 

Crito. I think that you are right, Socrates. 
But what are we to do ? 

Socr. Let us consider that together, my 
good sir, and if you can contradict anything 
that I say, do so, and I will be convinced : 
but if you cannot, do not go on repeating to 
me any longer, my dear friend, that I should 
escape without the consent of the Athenians. I 
am very anxious to act with your approval : 1 
I do not want you to think me mistaken. But 
now tell me if you agree with the doctrine from 
which I start, and try to answer my questions 
as you think best. 49. 

Crito. I will try. 

Socr. Ought we never to do wrong inten- X. 
tionally at all ; or may we do wrong in some 
ways, and not in others ? Or, as we have often 
agreed in former times, is it never either good 
or honourable to do wrong ? Have all our 
former conclusions been forgotten in these few 
1 Reading Tret'tras. 

92 CRITO. 

days ? Old men as we were, Crito, did we not 
see, in days gone by, when we were gravely 
conversing with each other, that we were no 
better than children ? Or is not what we used 
to say most assuredly the truth, whether the 
world agrees with us or not ? Is not wrong- 
doing an evil and a shame to the wrong-doer 
in every case, whether we incur a heavier or a 
lighter punishment than death as the conse- 
quence of doing right ? Do we believe that ? 

Crito, We do. 

Socr. Then we ought never to do wrong at 

Crito. Certainly not. 

Socr. Neither, if we ought never to do wrong 
at all, ought we to repay wrong with wrong, 
as the world thinks we may ? 

Crito. Clearly not. 

Socr. Well then, Crito, ought we to do evil 
to any one ? 

Crito. Certainly I think not, Socrates. 

Socr. And is it right to repay evil with evil, 
as the world thinks, or not right ? 

Crito. Certainly it is not right. 

Socr. For there is no difference, is there, 
between doing evil to a man, and wronging 
him ? 

Crito. True. 

Socr. Then we ought not to repay wrong 
with wrong or do harm to any man, no matter 
what we may have suffered from him. And in 
conceding this, Crito, be careful that you do 
not concede more than you mean. For I know 

CRITO. 93 

that only a few men hold, or ever will hold this 
opinion. And so those who hold it, and those 
who do not, have no common ground of argu- 
ment ; they can of necessity only look with con- 
tempt on each other's belief. Do you therefore 
consider very carefully whether you agree with 
me and share my opinion. Are we to start in 
our inquiry from the doctrine that it is never 
right either to do wrong, or to repay wrong 
with wrong, or to avenge ourselves on any man 
who harms us, by harming him in return ? Or 
do you disagree with me and dissent from my 
principle ? I myself have believed in it for a 
long time, and I believe in it still. But if you 
differ in any way, explain to me how. If you 
still hold to our former opinion, listen to my 
next point. 

Crito. Yes, I hold to it, and I agree with 
you. Go on. 

Socr. Then, my next point, or rather my 
next question, is this : Ought a man to per- 
form his just agreements, or may he shuffle out 
of them ? 

Crito. He ought to perform them. 

Socr. Then consider. If I escape without XI. 
the state's consent, shall I be injuring those 50. 
whom I ought least to injure, or not ? Shall 
I be abiding by my just agreements or not ? 

Crito. I cannot answer your question, Soc- 
rates. I do not understand it. 

Socr. Consider it in this way. Suppose the 
laws and the commonwealth were to come and 
appear to me as I was preparing to run away 

94 CRITO. 

(if that is the right phrase to describe my escape) 
and were to ask, ' Tell us, Socrates, what have 
you in your mind to do ? What do you mean 
by trying to escape, but to destroy us the laws, 
and the whole city, so far as in you lies ? Do 
you think that a state can exist and not be 
overthrown, in which the decisions of law are 
of no force, and are disregarded and set at 
nought by private individuals ? ' How shall we 
answer questions like that, Crito ? Much might 
be said, especially by an orator, in defence of 
the law which makes judicial decisions supreme. 
Shall I reply, ' But the state has injured me : 
it has decided my cause wrongly.' Shall we 
say that ? 

Crito. Certainly we will, Socrates. 
XII. Socr. And suppose the laws were to reply, 
' Was that our agreement ? or was it that you 
would submit to whatever judgments the state 
should pronounce ? ' And if we were to wonder 
at their words, perhaps they would say, ' So- 
crates, wonder not at our words, but answer us ; 
you yourself are accustomed to ask questions 
and to answer them. What complaint have 
you against us and the city, that you are trying 
to destroy us ? Are we not, first, your parents ? 
Through us your father took your mother and 
begat you. Tell us, have you any fault to find 
with those of us that are the laws of marriage ? ' 
' I have none,' I should reply. ' Or have you any 
fault to find with those of us that regulate the 
nurture and education of the child, which you, 
like others, received ? Did not we do well in 

CRITO. 95 

bidding your father educate you in music and 
gymnastic ? ' ' You did,' I should say. ' Well 
then, since you were brought into the world 
and nurtured and educated by us, how, in the 
first place, can you deny that you are our child 
and our slave, as your fathers were before you ? 
And if this be so, do you think that your rights 
are on a level with ours ? Do you think that 
you have a right to retaliate upon us if we 
should try to do anything to you. You had 
not the same rights that your father had, or 
that your master would have had, if you had 
been a slave. You had no right to retaliate 
upon them if they ill-treated you, or to answer 
them if they reviled you, or to strike them 51 
back if they struck you, or to repay them evil 
with evil in any way. And do you think that 
you may retaliate on your country and its laws ? 
If we try to destroy you, because we think it 
right, will you in return do all that you can to 
destroy us, the laws, and your country, and say 
that in so doingyouare doing right, you, the man, 
who in truth thinks so much of virtue ? Or are 
you too wise to see that your country is worthier, 
and more august, and more sacred, and holier, 
and held in higher honour both by the gods and 
by all men of understanding, than your father and 
your mother and all your other ancestors ; and 
that it is your bounden duty to reverence it, and 
to submit to it, and to approach it more humbly 
than you would approach your father, when it 
is angry with you ; and either to do whatever it 
bids you to do or to persuade it to excuse you ; 

96 CRITO. 

and to obey in silence if it orders you to 
endure stripes or imprisonment, or if it send 
you to battle to be wounded or to die ? That is 
what is your duty. You must not give way, 
nor retreat, nor desert your post. In war, and 
in the court of justice, and everywhere, you 
must do whatever your city and your country 
bid you do, or you must convince them that 
their commands are unjust. But it is against 
the law of God to use violence to your father 
or to your mother ; and much more so is it 
against the law of God to use violence to your 
country.' What answer shall we make, Crito ? 
Shall we say that the laws speak truly, or 

Crito. I think that they do. 

XIII. Socr. l Then consider, Socrates/' perhaps 
they would say, ' if we are right in saying that 
by attempting to escape you are attempting to 
injure us. We brought you into the world, we 
nurtured you, we educated you, we gave you 
and every other citizen a share of all the good 
things we could. Yet we proclaim that if any 
man of the Athenians is dissatisfied with us, he 
may take his goods and go away whithersoever 
he pleases : we give that permission to every 
man who chooses to avail himself of it, so soon 
as he has reached man's estate, and sees us, 
the laws, and the administration of our city. 
No one of us stands in his way or forbids him to 
take his goods and go wherever he likes, whether 
it be to an Athenian colony, or to any foreign 
country, if he is dissatisfied with us and with 

CRITO. 97 

the city. But we say that every man of you 
who remains here, seeing how we administer 
justice, and how we govern the city in other 
matters, has agreed, by the very fact of remain- 
ing here, to do whatsoever we bid him. And, 
we say, he who disobeys us, does a threefold 
wrong : he disobeys us who are his parents, and 
he disobeys us who fostered him, and he disobeys 
us after he has agreed to obey us, without 
persuading us that we are wrong. Yet we 
did not bid him sternly to do whatever we told 
him. We offered him an alternative ; we gave 52. 
him his choice, either to obey us, or to con- 
vince us that we were wrong : but he does 

' These are the charges, Socrates, to which XIV. 
we say that you will expose yourself, if you do 
what you intend ; and that not less, but more 
than other Athenians.' And if I were to ask, 
' And why ? ' they might retort with justice that 
I have bound myself by the agreement with 
them more than other Athenians. They would 
say, ' Socrates, we have very strong evidence 
that you were satisfied with us and with the 
city. You would not have been content to 
stay at home in it more than other Athenians, 
unless you had been satisfied with it more than 
they. You never went away from Athens to 
the festivals, save once to the Isthmian games, 
nor elsewhere except on military service ; you 
never made other journeys like other men ; you 
had no desire to see other cities or other laws ; 
you were contented with us and our city. So 


strongly did you prefer us, and agree to be 
governed by us : and what is more, you begat 
children in this city, you found it so pleasant. 
And besides, if you had wished, you might at 
your trial have offered to go into exile. At that 
time you could have done with the state's con- 
sent, what you are trying now to do without it. 
But then you gloried in being willing to die. 
You said that you preferred death to exile. 
And now you are not ashamed of those words : 
you do not respect us the laws, for you are 
trying to destroy us : and you are acting just 
as a miserable slave would act, trying to run 
away, and breaking the covenant and agree- 
ment which you made to submit to our govern- 
ment. First, therefore, answer this question. 
Are we right, or are we wrong, in saying that 
you have agreed not in mere words, but in 
reality, to live under our government ?' What 
are we to say, Crito ? Must we not admit that 
it is true ? 

Crito. We must, Socrates. 

Socr. Then they would say, ' Are you not 
breaking your covenants and agreements with 
us ? And you were not led to make them by 
force or by fraud : you had not to make up your 
mind in a hurry. You had seventy years in 
which you might have gone away, if you had 
been dissatisfied with us, or if the agreement 
had seemed to you unjust. But you preferred 
neither Lacedasmon nor Crete, though you are 
fond of saying that they are well governed, nor 
any other state, either of the Hellenes, or the 

CRITO. 99 

Barbarians. You went away from Athens less 53. 
than the lame and the blind and the cripple. 
Clearly you, far more than other Athenians, 
were satisfied with the city, and also with us 
who are its laws : for who would be satisfied 
with a city which had no laws ? And now will 
you not abide by your agreement ? If you 
take our advice, you will, Socrates : then you 
will not make yourself ridiculous by going away 
from Athens. 

' For consider : what good will you do your- XV. 
self or your friends by thus transgressing, and 
breaking your agreement ? It is tolerably 
certain that they, on their part, will at least run 
the risk of exile, and of losing their civil rights, 
or of forfeiting their property. For yourself, 
you might go to one of the neighbouring cities, 
to Thebes or to Megara for instance for both 
of them are well governed but, Socrates, you 
will come as an enemy to these commonwealths ; 
and all who care for their city will look askance 
at you, and think that you are a subverter of 
law. And you will confirm the judges in their 
opinion, and make it seem that their verdict 
was a just one. For a man who is a subverter 
of law, may well be supposed to be a corrupter 
of the young and thoughtless. Then will you 
avoid well-governed states and civilised men ? 
Will life be worth having, if you do ? Or will 
you consort with such men, and converse with- 
out shame about what, Socrates ? About the 
things which you talk of here ? Will you tell 
them that virtue, and justice, and institutions, 

ioo CRITO. 

and law are the most precious things that men 
can have ? And do you not think that that 
will be a shameful thing in Socrates ? You 
ought to think so. But you will leave these 
places ; you will go to the friends of Crito in 
Thessaly : for there there is most disorder and 
licence : and very likely they will be delighted 
to hear of the ludicrous way in which you 
escaped from prison, dressed up in peasant's 
clothes, or in some other disguise which people 
put on when they are running away, and with 
your appearance altered. But will no one say 
how you, an old man, with probably only a few 
more years to live, clung so greedily to life that 
you dared to transgress the highest laws ? Per- 
haps not, if you do not displease them. But if 
you do, Socrates, you will hear much that will 
make you blush. You will pass your life as 
the flatterer and the slave of all men ; and what 
will you be doing but feasting in Thessaly? It 
will be as if you had made a journey to Thessaly 
for an entertainment. And where will be all 
our old sayings about justice and virtue then ? 
54. But you wish to live for the sake of your 
children ? You want to bring them up and 
educate them ? What ? will you take them 
with you to Thessaly, and bring them up and 
educate them there ? Will you make them 
strangers to their own country, that you may 
bestow this benefit on them too ? Or supposing 
that you leave them in Athens, will they be 
brought up and educated better if you are alive, 
though you are not with them ? Yes ; your 

CRITO. lor 

friends will take care of them. Will your 
friends take care of them if you make a journey 
to Thessaly, and not if you make a journey to 
Hades ? You ought not to think that, at least 
if those who call themselves your friends are 
good for anything at all. 

' No, Socrates, be advised by us who have XVI. 
fostered you. Think neither of children, nor of 
life, nor of any other thing before justice, that 
when you come to the other world you may be 
able to make your defence before the rulers who 
sit in judgment there. It is clear that neither 
you nor any of your friends will be happier, 
or juster, or holier in this life, if you do this 
thing, nor will you be happier after you are 
dead. Now you will go away wronged, not 
by us, the laws, but by men. But if you repay 
evil with evil, and wrong with wrong in this 
shameful way, and break your agreements and 
covenants with us, and injure those whom you 
should least injure, yourself, and your friends, 
and your country, and us, and so escape, then 
we shall be angry with you while you live, and 
when you die our brethren, the laws in Hades, 
will not receive you kindly ; for they will know 
that on earth you did all that you could to des- 
troy us. Listen then to us, and let not Crito 
persuade you to do as he says.' 

Know well, my dear friend Crito, that this XVII. 
is what I seem to hear, as the worshippers of 
Cybele seem, in their frenzy, to hear the music 
of flutes : and the sound of these words rings 
loudly in my ears, and drowns all other words. 

102 CRITO. 

And I feel sure that if you try to change my 
mind you will speak in vain ; nevertheless, if 
you think that you will succeed, say on. 

Crito. I can say no more, Socrates. 

Socr. Then let it be, Crito : and let us do as 
I say, seeing that God so directs us. 











SCENE. First Phlius, then the Prison of 


Echecrates. Were you with Socrates yourself, CHAP. I. 
Phaedo, on that day when he drank the poison Steph. 
in the prison, or did you hear the story from P- 58< 
some one else ? 

Phcedo. I was there myself, Echecrates. 

Ech. Then what was it that our master said 
before his death, and how did he die ? I should 
be very glad if you would tell me. None of our 
citizens go very much to Athens now ; and no 
stranger has come from there for a long time, 
who could give us any definite account of these 
things, except that he drank the poison and 
died. We could learn nothing beyond that. 

Phcedo. Then have you not heard about the 
trial either, how that went ? 

Ech. Yes, we were told of that : and we 
were rather surprised to find that he did not 
die till so long after the trial. Why was that, 
Phaedo ? 

Phado. It was an accident, Echecrates. The 
stern of the ship, which the Athenians send to 
Delos, happened to have been crowned on the 
day before the trial. 

Ech. And what is this ship ? 

io6 PHMDO. 

Phado. It is the ship, as the Athenians say, 
in which Theseus took the seven youths and 
the seven maidens to Crete, and saved them 
from death, and himself was saved. The 
Athenians made a vow then to Apollo, the 
story goes, to send a sacred mission to Delos 
every year, if they should be saved ; and from 
that time to this they have always sent it to the 
god, every year. They have a law to keep the 
city pure as soon as the mission begins, and 
not to execute any sentence of death until the 
ship has returned from Delos ; and sometimes, 
when it is detained by contrary winds, that is a 
long while. The sacred mission begins when the 
priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship : and, 
as I said, this happened to have been done on the 
day before the trial. That was why Socrates lay 
so long in prison between his trial and his death. 

Ech. But tell me about his death, Phaedo. 
What was said and done, and which of his 
friends were with our master ? Or would not 
the authorities let them be there ? Did he die 
alone ? 

Phado. Oh, no : some of them were there, 
indeed several. 

Ech. It would be very good of you, if you 
are not busy, to tell us the whole story as 
exactly as you can. 

Phcedo. No : I have nothing to do and I will 
try to relate it. Nothing is more pleasant to 
me than to recall Socrates to my mind, whether 
by speaking of him myself, or by listening to 

PH&DO. 107 

Ech. Indeed, Phasdo, you will have an audi- 
ence like yourself. But try to tell us everything 
that happened as precisely as you can. 

Phcedo. Well, I myself was strangely moved 
on that day. I did not feel that I was being 
present at the death of a dear friend : I did 
not pity him, for he seemed to me happy, 
Echecrates, both in his bearing and in his 
words, so fearlessly and nobly did he die. I 
could not help thinking that the gods would 
watch over him still on his journey to the other 
world, and that when he arrived there it would 
be well with him, if it was ever well with any 
man. Therefore I had scarcely any feeling of 59. 
pity, as you would expect at such a mournful 
time. Neither did I feel the pleasure which I 
usually felt at our philosophical discussions ; 
for our talk was of philosophy. A very singular 
feeling came over me, a strange mixture of 
pleasure and of pain when I remembered that 
he was presently to die. All of us who were 
there were in much the same state, laughing 
and crying by turns ; particularly Apollodorus. 
I think you know the man and his ways. 

Ech. Of course I do. 

Phcedo. Well, he did not restrain himself at 
all ; and I myself and the others were greatly 
agitated too. 

Ech. Who were there, Phaedo ? 

Phcedo. Of native Athenians, there was this 
Apollodorus, and Critobulus, and his father 
Crito, and Hermogenes, and Epigenes, and 
.dischines, and Antisthenes. Then there was 

io8 Pff^DO. 

Ctesippus the Paeanian, and Menexenus, and 
some other Athenians. Plato, I believe was ill. 

Ech. Were any strangers there ? 

Phcedo. Yes, there was Simmias of Thebes, 
and Cebes, and Phaedondes ; and Eucleides and 
Terpsion from Megara. 

Ech. But Aristippus and Cleombrotus ? were 
they present ? 

Phtzdo. No, they were not. They were said 
to be in ./Egina. 

Ech. Was any one else there ? 

Phcedo. No, I think that these were all. 

Ech. Then tell us about your conversation. 
III. Phado. I will try to relate the whole story 
to you from the beginning. On the previous 
days I and the others had always met in the 
morning at the court where the trial was held, 
which was close to the prison ; and then we 
had gone in to Socrates. We used to wait 
each morning until the prison was opened, con- 
versing : for it was not opened early. When 
it was opened we used to go in to Socrates, and 
we generally spent the whole day with him. But 
on that morning we met earlier than usual ; for 
the evening before we had learnt, on leaving 
the prison, that the ship had arrived from Delos. 
So we arranged to be at the usual place as early 
as possible. When we reached the prison the 
porter, who generally let us in, came out to us 
and bade us wait a little, and not to go in until 
he summoned us himself ; ' for the Eleven,' he 
said, ' are releasing Socrates from his fetters, 
and giving directions for his death to-day.' In 

PHALDO. 109 

no great while he returned and bade us enter. 
So we went in and found Socrates just released, 6O. 
and Xanthippe you know her sitting by him, 
holding his child in her arms. When Xanthippe 
saw us, she wailed aloud, and cried, in her 
woman's way, ' This is the last time, Socrates, 
that you will talk with your friends, or they 
with you.' And Socrates glanced at Crito, and 
said, ' Crito, let her be taken home.' So some 
of Crito's servants led her away, weeping bitterly 
and beating her breast. But Socrates sat up 
on the bed, and bent his leg and rubbed it with 
his hand, and while he was rubbing it said to 
us, How strange a thing is what men call 
pleasure ! How wonderful is its relation to 
pain, which seems to be the opposite of it ! 
They will not come to a man together : but if 
he pursues the one and gains it, he is almost 
forced to take the other also, as if they were 
two distinct things united at one end. And I 
think, said he, that if ^sop had noticed them 
he would have composed a fable about them, 
to the effect that God had wished to reconcile 
them when they were quarrelling, and that, when 
he could not do that, he joined their ends to- 
gether ; and that therefore whenever the one 
comes to a man, the other is sure to follow. 
That is just the case with me. There was 
pain in my leg caused by the chains : and now, 
it seems, pleasure is come following the pain. 

Cebes interrupted him and said, By the bye iv. 
Socrates, I am glad that you reminded me. 
Several people have been inquiring about your 

1 10 PH&DO. 

poems, the hymn to Apollo, and ^sop's fables 
which you have put into metre, and only a day 
or two ago Evenus asked me what was your 
reason for writing poetry on coming here, when 
you had never written a line before. So if you 
wish me to be able to answer him when he 
asks me again, as I know that he will, tell me 
what to say. 

Then tell him the truth, Cebes, he said. 
Say that it was from no wish to pose as a rival 
to him, or to his poems. I knew that it would 
not be easy to do that. I was only testing the 
meaning of certain dreams, and acquitting my 
conscience about them, in case they should be 
bidding me make this kind of music. The fact 
is this. The same dream used often to come to 
me in my past life, appearing in different forms 
at different times, but always saying the same 
words, ' Socrates, work at music and compose 
it.' Formerly I used to think that the dream was 
encouraging me and cheering me on in what 
61. was already the work of my life, just as the 
spectators cheer on different runners in a race. 
I supposed that the dream was encouraging 
me to create the music at which I was working 
already : for I thought that philosophy was the 
highest music, and my life was spent in philo- 
sophy. But then, after the trial, when the 
feast of the god delayed my death, it occurred 
to me that the dream might possibly be bidding 
me create music in the popular sense, and that 
in that case I ought to do so, and not to disobey : 
I thought that it would be safer to acquit my 

PH&DO. in 

conscience by creating poetry in obedience to 
the dream before I departed. So first I com- 
posed a hymn to the god whose feast it was. 
And then I turned such fables of yEsop as I 
knew, and had ready to my hand, into verse, 
taking those which came first : for I reflected 
that a man who means to be a poet has to use 
fiction and not facts for his poems ; and I could 
not invent fiction myself. 

Tell Evenus this, Cebes, and bid him fare- V. 
well from me ; and tell him to follow me as 
quickly as he can, if he is wise. I, it seems, 
shall depart to-day, for that is the will of the 

And Simmias said, What strange advice to 
give Evenus, Socrates ! I have often met him, 
and from what I have seen of him, I think that 
he is certainly not at all the man to take it, if 
he can help it. 

What ? he said, is not Evenus a philosopher? 

Yes, I suppose so, replied Simmias. 

Then Evenus will wish to die, he said, and 
so will ever)' man who is worthy of having any 
part in this study. But he will not lay violent 
hands on himself; for that, they say, is wrong. 
And as he spoke he put his legs off the bed on 
to the ground, and remained sitting thus for the 
rest of the conversation. 

Then Cebes asked him, W T hat do you mean, 
Socrates, by saying that it is wrong for a man 
to lay violent hands on himself, but that the 
philosopher will wish to follow the dying man ? 

What, Cebes ? Have you and Simmias been 

112 PH.&DO. 

with Philolaus, and not heard about these 
things ? 

Nothing very definite, Socrates. 
Well, I myself only speak of them from hear- 
say : yet there is no reason why I should not 
tell you what I have heard. Indeed, as I am 
setting out on a journey to the other world, 
what could be more fitting for me than to talk 
about my journey, and to consider what we 
imagine to be its nature ? How could we better 
employ the interval between this and sunset ? 

VI. Then what is their reason for saying that it 
is wrong for a man to kill himself, Socrates ? 
It is quite true that I have heard Philolaus say, 
when he was living at Thebes, that it is not 
right ; and I have heard the same thing from 
others too : but I never heard anything definite 
on the subject from any of them. 

62. You must be of good cheer, said he, possibly 
you will hear something some day. But per- 
haps you will be surprised if I say that this 
law, unlike every other law to which mankind 
are subject, is absolute and without exception ; 
and that it is not true that death is better 
than life only for some persons and at some 
times. And perhaps you will be surprised 
if I tell you that these men, for whom it 
would be better to die, may not do themselves 
a service, but that they must await a benefactor 
from without. 

Oh indeed, said Cebes, laughing quietly, and 
speaking in his native dialect. 

Indeed, said Socrates, so stated it may seem 

PH&DO. 113 

strange : and yet perhaps a reason may be 
given for it. The reason which the secret 
teaching l gives, that man is in a kind of prison, 
and that he may not set himself free, nor escape 
from it, seems to me rather profound and not 
easy to fathom. But I do think, Cebes, that it 
is true that the gods are our guardians, and 
that we men are a part of their property. Do 
you not think so ? 

I do, said Cebes. 

Well then, said he, if one of your possessions 
were to kill itself, though you had not signified 
that you wished it to die, should you not be 
angry with it ? Should you not punish it, if 
punishment were possible ? 

Certainly, he replied. 

Then in this way perhaps it is not unreason- 
able to hold that no man has a right to take his 
own life, but that he must wait until God sends 
some necessity upon him, as has now been sent 
upon me. 

Yes, said Cebes, that does seem natural. VII. 
But you were saying just now that the philo- 
sopher will desire to die. Is not that a paradox, 
Socrates, if what we have just been saying, that 
God is our guardian and that we are his pro- 
perty, be true. It is not reasonable to say that 
the wise man will be content to depart from 
this service, in which the gods, who are the 
best of all rulers, rule him. He will hardly 
think that when he becomes free he will take 
better care of himself than the gods take of him. 
1 The Esoteric system of the Pythagoreans. 

1 14 PH&DO. 

A fool perhaps might think so, and say that he 
would do well to run away from his master : he 
might not consider that he ought not to run 
away from a good master, but that he ought to 
remain with him as long as possible, and so in 
his thoughtlessness he might run away. But 
the wise man will surely desire to remain always 
with one who is better than himself. But if 
this be true, Socrates, the reverse of what you 
said just now seems to follow. The wise man 
should grieve to die, and the fool should rejoice. 

I thought Socrates was pleased with Cebes' 

63. insistence. He looked at us, and said, Cebes 

is always examining arguments. He will not 

be convinced at once by anything that one says. 

Yes, Socrates, said Simmias, but I do think 
that now there is something in what Cebes says. 
Why should really wise men want to run away 
from masters who are better than themselves, 
and lightly quit their service ? And I think 
Cebes is aiming his argument at you, because 
you are so ready to leave us, and the gods, who 
are good rulers, as you yourself admit. 

You are right, he said. I suppose you mean 
that I must defend myself against your charge, 
as if I were in a court of justice. 

That is just our meaning, said Simmias. 
VIII. Well then, he replied, let me try to make a 
more successful defence to you than I did to 
the judges at my trial. I should be wrong, 
Cebes and Simmias, he went on, not to grieve 
at death, if I did not think that I was going to 
live both with other gods who are good and 

Pff&DO. 115 

wise, and with men who have died, and who 
are better than the men of this world. But you 
must know that I hope that I am going to live 
among good men, though I am not quite sure 
of that. But I am as sure as I can be in such 
matters that I am going to live with gods who 
are very good masters. And therefore I am 
not so much grieved at death : I am confident 
that the dead have some kind of existence, and, 
as has been said of old, an existence that is far 
better for the good than for the wicked. 

Well, Socrates, said Simmias, do you mean 
to go away and keep this belief to yourself, or 
will you let us share it with you ? It seems to 
me that we too have an interest in this good. 
And it will also serve as your defence, if you 
can convince us of what you say. 

I will try, he replied. But I think Crito has 
been wanting to speak to me. Let us first hear 
what he has to say. 

Only, Socrates, said Crito, that the man who 
is going to give you the poison has been telling 
me to warn you not to talk much. He says 
that talking heats people, and that the action 
of the poison must not be counteracted by heat. 
Those who excite themselves sometimes have 
to drink it two or three times. 

Let him be, said Socrates : let him mind his 
own business, and be prepared to give me the 
poison twice, or, if need be, thrice. 

I knew that would be your answer, said 
Crito : but the man has been importunate. 

Never mind him, he replied. But I wish 

Ii6 PHsEDO. 

now to explain to you, my judges, why it seems 
to me that a man who has really spent his life 
in philosophy has reason to be of good cheer 
64. when he is about to die, and may well hope 
after death to gain in the other world the 
greatest good. I will try to show you, Simmias 
and Cebes, how this may be. 

IX. The world, perhaps, does not see that those 
who rightly engage in philosophy, study only 
dying and death. And, if this be true, it would 
be surely strange for a man all through his life 
to desire only death, and then, when death 
comes to him, to be vexed at it, when it has 
been his study and his desire for so long. 

Simmias laughed, and said : Indeed, Socrates, 
you make me laugh, though I am scarcely in a 
laughing humour now. If the multitude heard 
that, I fancy they would think that what you 
say of philosophers is quite true; and my country- 
men would entirely agree with you that philo- 
sophers are indeed eager to die, and they would 
say that they know full well that philosophers 
deserve to be put to death. 

And they would be right, Simmias, except in 
saying that they know it. They do not know 
in what sense the true philosopher is eager to 
die, or what kind of death he deserves, or 
in what sense he deserves it. Let us dismiss 
them from our thoughts, and converse by our- 
selves. Do we believe death to be anything ? 

We do, replied Simmias. 

And do we not believe it to be the separation 
of the soul from the body ? Does not death 

PH^EDO. 117 

mean that the body comes to exist by itself, 
separated from the soul, and that the soul exists 
by herself, separated from the body ? What is 
death but that ? 

It is that, he said. 

Now consider, my good friend, if you and I 
are agreed on another point which I think will 
help us to understand the question better. Do 
you think that a philosopher will care very much 
about what are called pleasures, such as the 
pleasures of eating and drinking ? 

Certainly not, Socrates, said Simmias. 

Or about the pleasures of sexual passion ? 

Indeed, no. 

And, do you think that he holds the remain- 
ing cares of the body in high esteem ? Will he 
think much of getting fine clothes, and sandals, 
and other bodily adornments, or will he despise 
them, except so far as he is absolutely forced 
to meddle with them ? 

The real philosopher, I think, will despise 
them, he replied. 

In short, said he, you think that his studies 
are not concerned with the body ? He stands 
aloof from it, as far as he can, and turns towards 
the soul ? 

I do. 

Well then, in these matters, first, it is clear 
that the philosopher releases his soul from com- 65. 
munion with the body, so far as he can, beyond 
all other men ? 

It is. 

And does not the world think, Simmias, that 

u8 PHMDO. 

if a man has no pleasure in such things, and 
does not take his share in them, his life is 
not worth living ? Do not they hold that 
he who thinks nothing of bodily pleasures is 
almost as good as dead ? 

Indeed you are right. 

X. But what about the actual acquisition of 
wisdom ? If the body is taken as a companion 
in the search for wisdom, is it a hindrance or 
not ? For example, do sight and hearing con- 
vey any real truth to men ? Are not the very 
poets for ever telling us that we neither hear 
nor see anything accurately ? But if these 
senses of the body are not accurate or clear, the 
others will hardly be so, for they are all less 
perfect than these, are they not ? 

Yes, I think so, certainly, he said. 

Then when does the soul attain truth ? he 
asked. We see that, as often as she seeks to 
investigate anything in company with the body, 
the body leads her astray. 


Is it not by reasoning, if at all, that any real 
truth becomes manifest to her ? 


And she reasons best, I suppose, when none 
of the senses, whether hearing, or sight, or pain, 
or pleasure, harasses her : when she has dis- 
missed the body, and released herself as far as 
she can from all intercourse or contact with it, 
and so, coming to be as much alone with her- 
self as is possible, strives after real truth. 

That is so. 

PHALDO. 1 19 

And here too the soul of the philosopher very 
greatly despises the body, and flies from it, and 
seeks to be alone by herself, does she not ? 


And what do you say to the next point, Sim- 
mias ? Do we say that there is such a thing 
as absolute justice, or not ? 

Indeed we do. 

And absolute beauty, and absolute good ? 

Of course. 

Have you ever seen any of them with your 
eyes ? 

Indeed, I have not, he replied. 

Did you ever grasp them with any bodily 
sense ? I am speaking of all absolutes, whether 
size, or health, or strength ; in a word of the 
essence or real being of everything. Is the 
very truth of things contemplated by the body ? 
Is it not rather the case that the man, who 
prepares himself most carefully to apprehend 
by his intellect the essence of each thing which 
he examines, will come nearest to the know- 
ledge of it ? 


And will not a man attain to this pure thought 
most completely, if he goes to each thing, as far 
as he can, with his mind alone, taking neither 
sight, nor any other sense along with his reason 
in the process of thought, to be an encumbrance? 66. 
In every case he will pursue pure and absolute 
being, with his pure intellect alone. He will 
be set free as far as possible from the eye, and 
the ear, and, in short, from the whole body, 

120 Pff&DO. 

because intercourse with the body troubles the 
soul, and hinders her from gaining truth and 
wisdom. Is it not he who will attain the know- 
ledge of real being, if any man will ? 

Your words are admirably true, Socrates, 
said Simmias. 

XL And, he said, must not all this cause real 
philosophers to reflect, and make them say to 
each other, It seems that there is a narrow path 
which will bring us safely to our journey's end, 
with reason as our guide. As long as we have 
this body, and an evil of that sort is mingled 
with our souls, we shall never fully gain what 
we desire ; and that is truth. For the body is 
for ever taking up our time with the care which 
it needs : and, besides, whenever diseases attack 
it, they hinder us in our pursuit of real being. 
It fills us with passions, and desires, and fears, 
and all manner of phantoms, and much foolish- 
ness : and so, as the saying goes, in very truth 
we can never think at all for it. It alone, and 
its desires, cause wars and factions and battles : 
for the origin of all wars is the pursuit of wealth, 1 
and we are forced to pursue wealth because we 
live in slavery to the cares of the body. And 
therefore, for all these reasons, we have no 
leisure for philosophy. And last of all, if we 
ever are free from the body for a time, and then 
turn to examine some matter, it falls in our way 
at every step of the inquiry, and causes con- 
fusion and trouble and panic, so that we cannot 
see the truth for it. Verily we have learnt that 
1 Cf. Rep. 373 D. 

PHsEDO. 121 

if we are to have any pure knowledge at all, we 
inust be freed from the body ; the soul by her- 
self must behold things as they are. Then, it 
seems, after we are dead, we shall gain the 
wisdom which we desire, and for which we say 
we have a passion, but not while we are alive, 
as the argument shows. For if it be not pos- 
sible to have pure knowledge while the body 
is with us, one of two things must be true: 
either we cannot gain knowledge at all, or we 
can gain it only after death. For then, and 
not till then, will the soul exist by herself, 67. 
separate from the body. And while we live, 
we shall come nearest to knowledge, if we have 
no communion or intercourse with the body 
beyond what is absolutely necessary, and if we 
are not defiled with its nature. We must live 
pure from it until God himself releases us. 
And when we are thus pure and released from 
its follies, we shall dwell, I suppose, with others 
who are pure like ourselves, and we shall of 
ourselves know all that is pure ; and that may 
be the truth. For I think that the impure is 
not allowed to attain to the pure. Such, Sim- 
mias, I fancy must needs be the language and 
the reflections of the true lovers of knowledge. 
Do you not agree with me ? 

Most assuredly I do, Socrates. 

And, my friend, said Socrates, if this be true, X1L 
I have good hope that, when I reach the place 
whither I am going, I shall there, if anywhere, 
gain fully that which we have sought so ear- 
nestly in the past. And so I shall set forth 

122 PHMDO. 

cheerfully on the journey that is appointed me 
to-day, and so may every man who thinks that 
his mind is prepared and purified. 

That is quite true, said Simmias. 

And does not the purification consist, as 
we have said, in separating the soul from the 
body, as far as is possible, and in accustoming 
her to collect and rally herself together from 
the body on every side, and to dwell alone by 
herself as much as she can both now and here- 
after, released from the bondage of the body ? 

Yes, certainly, he said. 

Is not what we call death a release and 
separation of the soul from the body ? 

Undoubtedly, he replied. 

And the true philosopher, we hold, is alone 
in his constant desire to set his soul free ? 
His study is simply the release and separation 
of the soul from the body, is it not ? 


Would it not be absurd then, as I began by 
saying, for a man to complain at death coming 
to him, when in his life he has been preparing 
himself to live as nearly in a state of death as 
he could ? Would not that be absurd ? 

Yes, indeed. 

In truth, then, Simmias, he said, the true 
philosopher studies to die, and to him of all 
men is death least terrible. Now look at the 
matter in this way. In everything he is at 
enmity with his body, and he longs to possess 
his soul alone. Would it not then be most 
unreasonable, if he were to fear and complain 

PH^EDO. 123 

when he has his desire, instead of rejoicing to 
go to the place where he hopes to gain the 68. 
wisdom that he has passionately longed for all 
his life, and to be released from the company 
of his enemy ? Many a man has willingly gone 
to the other world, when a human love, or wife 
or son has died, in the hope of seeing there 
those whom he longed for, and of being with 
them : and will a man who has a real passion 
for wisdom, and a firm hope of really finding 
wisdom in the other world and nowhere else, 
grieve at death, and not depart rejoicing ? Nay, 
my friend, you ought not to think that, if he be 
truly a philosopher. He will be firmly convinced 
that there and nowhere else will he meet with 
wisdom in its purity. And if this be so, would 
it not, I repeat, be very unreasonable for such 
a man to fear death ? 

Yes, indeed, he replied, it would. 

Does not this show clearly, he said, that any xiIL 
man whom you see grieving at the approach of 
death, is after all no lover of wisdom, but a 
lover of his body ? He is also, most likely, a 
lover either of wealth, or of honour, or, it may 
be, of both. 

Yes, he said, it is as you say. 

Well then, Simmias, he went on, does not 
what is called courage belong especially to the 
philosopher ? 

Certainly I think so, he replied. 

And does not temperance, the quality which 
even the world calls temperance, and which 
means to despise and control and govern the 

124 Pff^EDO. 

passions does not temperance belong only to 
such men as most despise the body, and pass 
their lives in philosophy ? 

Of necessity, he replied. 

For if you will consider the courage and the 
temperance of other men, said he, you will find 
that they are strange things. 

How so, Socrates ? 

You know, he replied, that all other men 
regard death as one of the great evils to which 
mankind are subject ? 

Indeed they do, he said. 

And when the brave men of them submit to 
death, do not they do so from a fear of still 
greater evils ? 


Then all men but the philosopher are brave 
from fear and because they are afraid. Yet it 
is rather a strange thing for a man to be brave 
out of fear and cowardice. 

Indeed it is. 

And are not the orderly men of them in 
exactly the same case ? Are not they temperate 
from a kind of intemperance ? We should say 
that this cannot be : but in them this state of 
foolish temperance comes to that. They desire 
certain pleasures, and fear to lose them ; and so 
they abstain from other pleasures because they 
are mastered by these. Intemperance is defined 
69. to mean being under the dominion of pleasure : 
yet they only master certain pleasures because 
they are mastered by others. But that is 
exactly what I said just now, that, in a way, 


they are made temperate from intemper- 

It seems to be so. 

My dear Simmias, I fear that virtue is noi 
really to be bought in this way, by bartering 
pleasure for pleasure, and pain for pain, and 
fear for fear, and the greater for the less, like 
coins. There is only one sterling coin for 
which all these things ought to be exchanged, 
and that is wisdom. All that is bought and 
sold for this and with this, whether courage, or 
temperance, or justice, is real : in one word true 
virtue cannot be without wisdom, and it matters 
nothing whether pleasure, and fear, and all other 
such things, are present or absent. But I think 
that the vinue which is composed of pleasures 
and fears bartered with one another, and severed 
from wisdom, is only a shadow of true virtue, 
and that it has no freedom, nor health, nor truth. 
True virtue in reality is a kind of purifying from 
all these things : and temperance, and justice, 
and courage, and wisdom itself, are the purifica- 
tion. And I fancy that the men who estab- 
lished our mysteries had a very real meaning : 
in truth they have been telling us in parables all 
the time that whosoever comes to Hades unin- 
itiated and profane, will lie in the mire ; while 
he that has been purified and initiated shall 
dwell with the gods. For ' the thyrsus-bearers 
are many,' as they say in the mysteries, ' but 
the inspired few.' And by these last, I believe, 
are meant only the true philosophers. And I 
in my life have striven as hard as I was able, 

126 PffJEDO. 

and have left nothing undone that I might 
become one of them. Whether I have striven 
in the right way, and whether I have succeeded 
or not, I suppose that I shall learn in a little 
while, when I reach the other world, if it be 
the will of God. 

That is my defence, Simmias and Cebes, to 
show that I have reason for not being angry 
or grieved at leaving you and my masters here. 
I believe that in the next world, no less than in 
this, I shall meet with good masters and friends, 
though the multitude are incredulous of it. 
And if I have been more successful with you 
in my defence than I was with my Athenian 
judges, it is well. 

XIV. When Socrates had finished, Cebes replied 
to him, and said, I think that for the most part 
you are right, Socrates. But men are very 
7O. incredulous of what you have said of the soul. 
They fear that she will no longer exist anywhere 
when she has left the body, but that she will 
be destroyed and perish on the very day of 
death. They think that the moment that she 
is released and leaves the body, she will be 
dissolved and vanish away like breath or smoke, 
and thenceforward cease to exist at all. If 
she were to exist somewhere as a whole, released 
from the evils which you enumerated just now, 
we should have good reason to hope, Socrates, 
that what you say is true. But it will need no 
little persuasion and assurance to show that the 
soul exists after death, and continues to possess 
any power or wisdom. 

PHSEDO. 127 

True, Cebes, said Socrates ; but what are we 
to do ? Do you wish to converse about these 
matters and see if what I say is probable ? 

I for one, said Cebes, should gladly hear 
your opinion about them. 

I think, said Socrates, that no one who heard 
me now, even if he were a comic poet, would 
say that I am an idle talker about things which 
do not concern me. So, if you wish it, let us 
examine this question. 

Let us consider whether or no the souls of XV. 
men exist in the next world after death, thus. 
There is an ancient belief, which we remember, 
that on leaving this world they exist there, and 
that they return hither and are born again from 
the dead. But if it be true that the living are 
born from the dead, our souls must exist in the 
other world : otherwise they could not be born 
again. It will be a sufficient proof that this is 
so if we can really prove that the living are born 
only from the dead. But if this is not so, we 
shall have to find some other argument. 

Exactly, said Cebes. 

Well, said he, the easiest way of answering 
the question will be to consider it not in relation 
to men only, but also in relation to all animals 
and plants, and in short to all things that are 
generated. Is it the case that everything, which 
has an opposite, is generated only from its 
opposite. By opposites I mean, the honourable 
and the base, the just and the unjust, and so 
on in a thousand other instances. Let us con- 
sider then whether it is necessary for everything 

128 PIf/EDO. 

that has an opposite to be generated only from 
its own opposite. For instance, when anything 
becomes greater, I suppose it must first have 
been less and then become greater ? 


And if a thing becomes less, it must have 
71. been greater, and afterwards become less ? 

That is so, said he. 

And further, the weaker is generated from 
the stronger, and the swifter from the slower ? 


And the worse is generated from the better, 
and the more just from the more unjust ? 

Of course. 

Then it is sufficiently clear to us that all 
things are generated in this way, opposites from 
opposites ? 

Quite so. 

And in every pair of opposites, are there not 
two generations between the two members of 
the pair, from the one to the other, and then 
back again from the other to the first ? Between 
the greater and the less are growth and diminu- 
tion, and we say that the one grows and the 
other diminishes, do we not ? 

Yes, he said. 

And there is division and composition, and 
cold and hot, and so on. In fact is it not a 
universal law, even though we do not always 
express it in so many words, that opposites are 
generated always from one another, and that 
there is a process of generation from one to the 
other ? 

PH&DO. 129 

It is, he replied. 

Well, said he, is there an opposite to life, in XVI. 
the same way that sleep is the opposite of being 
awake ? 

Certainly, he answered. 

What is it ? 

Death, he replied. 

Then if life and death are opposites, they are 
generated the one from the other : they are two, 
and between them there are two generations. 
Is it not so ? 

Of course. 

Now, said Socrates, I will explain to you one 
of the two pairs of opposites of which I spoke 
just now, and its generations, and you shall 
explain to me the other. Sleep is the opposite 
of waking. From sleep is produced the state 
of waking : and from the state of waking is 
produced sleep. Their generations are, first, 
to fall asleep ; secondly, to awake. Is that 
clear ? he asked. 

Yes, quite. 

Now then, said he, do you tell me about life 
and death. Death is the opposite of life, is it 

It is. 

And they are generated the one from the 
other ? 


Then what is that which is generated from 
the living ? 

The dead, he replied. 

And what is generated from the dead ? 

130 PH^EDO. 

I must admit that it is the living. 

Then living things and living men are gener- 
ated from the dead, Cebes ? 

Clearly, said he. 

Then our souls exist in the other world ? he 


Now of these two generations the one is 
certain ? Death I suppose is certain enough, 
is it not ? 

Yes, quite, he replied. 

What then shall we do ? said he. Shall we 
not assign an opposite generation to correspond ? 
Or is nature imperfect here ? Must we not 
assign some opposite generation to dying? 

I think so, certainly, he said. 

And what must it be ? 

To come to life again. 

And if there be such a thing as a return to 
72. life, he said, it will be a generation from the 
dead to the living, will it not ? 

It will, certainly. 

Then we are agreed on this point : namely, 
that the living are generated from the dead no 
less than the dead from the living. But we 
agreed that, if this be so, it is a sufficient proof 
that the souls of the dead must exist somewhere, 
whence they come into being again. 

I think, Socrates, that that is the necessary 
result of our premises. 

XVII. And I think, Cebes, said he, that our con- 
clusion has not been an unfair one. For if 
opposites did not always correspond with op- 

PHMDO. 131 

posites as they are generated, moving as it were 
round in a circle, and there were generation in 
a straight line forward from one opposite only, 
with no turning or return to the other, then, 
you know, all things would come at length to 
have the same form and be in the same state, 
and would cease to be generated at all. 

What do you mean ? he asked. 

It is not at all hard to understand my mean- 
ing,- he replied. If, for example, the one 
opposite, to go to sleep, existed, without the 
corresponding opposite, to wake up, which is 
generated from the first, then all nature would 
at last make the tale of Endymion meaningless, 
and he would no longer be conspicuous ; for 
everything else would be in the same state of 
sleep that he was in. And if all things were 
compounded together and never separated, the 
Chaos of Anaxagoras would soon be realised. 
Just in the same way, my dear Cebes, if all 
things, in which there, is any life, were to die, 
and when they were dead were to remain in 
that form and not come to life again, would not 
the necessary result be that everything at last 
would be dead, and nothing alive ? For if 
living things were generated from other sources 
than death, and were to die, the result is inevit- 
able that all things would be consumed by 
death. Is it not so ? 

It is indeed, I think, Socrates, said Cebes ; 
I think that what you say is perfectly true. 

Yes, Cebes, he said, I think it is certainly so. 
We are not misled into this conclusion. The 

132 Pff^EDO. 

dead do come to life again, and the living are 
generated from them, and the souls of the dead 
exist ; and with the souls of the good it is well, 
and with the souls of the evil it is evil. 
XVIII. And besides, Socrates, rejoined Cebes, if the 
doctrine which you are fond of stating, that our 
learning is only a process of recollection, be 
true, then I suppose we must have learnt at 
some former time what we recollect now. And 
that would be impossible unless our souls- had 
existed somewhere before they came into this 
73. human form. So that is another reason for 
believing the soul immortal. 

But, Cebes, interrupted Simmias, what are 
the proofs of that ? Recall them to me : I am 
not very clear about them at present. 

One argument, answered Cebes, and the 
strongest of all, is that if you question men 
about anything in the right way, they will answer 
you correctly of themselves. But they would 
not have been able to do that, unless they had 
had within themselves knowledge and right 
reason. Again, show them such things as 
geometrical diagrams, and the proof of the 
doctrine is complete. 1 

And if that does not convince you, Simmias, 
said Socrates, look at the matter in another way 
and see if you agree then. You have doubts, 

1 For an example of this see Meno, 82 A. seq. , where, 
as here, Socrates proves the doctrine of Reminiscence, 
and therefore the Immortality of the Soul, by putting 
judicious questions about geometry to a slave who was 
quite ignorant of geometry, and, with the help of dia- 
grams, obtaining from him correct answers. 

PH&DO. 133 

I know, how what is called knowledge can be 

Nay, replied Simmias, I do not doubt. But 
I want to recollect the argument about recollec- 
tion. What Cebes undertook to explain has 
nearly brought your theory back to me and 
convinced me. But I am none the less ready 
to hear how you undertake to explain it. 

In this way, he returned. We are agreed, 
I suppose, that if a man remembers anything, 
he must have known it at some previous time. 

Certainly, he said. 

And are we agreed that when knowledge 
comes in the following way, it is recollection ? 
When a man has seen or heard anything, or 
has perceived it by some other sense, and then 
knows not that thing only, but has also in his 
mind an impression of some other thing, of 
which the knowledge is quite different, are we 
not right in saying that he remembers the thing 
of which he has an impression in his mind ? 

What do you mean ? 

I mean this. The knowledge of a man is 
different from the knowledge of a lyre, is it 


And you know that when lovers see a lyre, 
or a garment, or anything that their favourites 
are wont to use, they have this feeling. They 
know the lyre, and in their mind they receive 
the image of the youth whose the lyre was. 
That is recollection. For instance, some one 
seeing Simmias often is reminded of Cebes ; 

134 PH&DO. 

and there are endless examples of the same 

Indeed there are, said Simmias. 

Is not that a kind of recollection, he said ; 
and more especially when a man has this 
feeling with reference to things which the 
lapse of time and inattention have made him 
forget ? 

Yes, certainly, he replied. 

Well, he went on, is it possible to recollect 
a man on seeing the picture of a horse, or the 
picture of a lyre ? or to recall Simmias on see- 
ing a picture of Cebes ? 


And it is possible to recollect Simmias him- 
self on seeing a picture of Simmias ? 
74. No doubt, he said. 

XIX. Then in all these cases there is recollection 
caused by similar objects, and also by dissimilar 
objects ? 

There is. 

But when a man has a recollection caused 
by similar objects, will he not have a further 
feeling, and consider whether the likeness to 
that which he recollects is defective in any way 
or not ? 

He will, he said. 

Now see if this is true, he went on. Do we 
not believe in the existence of equality, not 
the equality of pieces of wood, or of stones ; 
but something beyond that, equality in the 
abstract ? Shall we say that there is such a 
thing, or not ? 

Pff&DO. 135 

Yes indeed, said Simmias, most emphatically 
we will. 

And do we know what this abstract equality 

Certainly, he replied. 

Where did we get the knowledge of it ? Was 
it not from seeing the equal pieces of wood, 
and stones, and the like, which we were speak- 
ing of just now ? Did we not form from them 
the idea of abstract equality, which is different 
from them ? Or do you think that it is not 
different ? Consider the question in this way. 
Do not equal pieces of wood and stones appear 
to us sometimes equal, and sometimes unequal, 
though in fact they remain the same all the 
time ? 

Certainly they do. 

But did absolute equals ever seem to you to 
be unequal, or abstract equality to be inequality? 

No, never, Socrates. 

Then equal things, he said, are not the same 
as abstract equality ? 

No, certainly not, Socrates. 

Yet it was from these equal things, he said, 
which are different from abstract equality, that 
you have conceived and got your knowledge of 
abstract equality ? 

That is quite true, he replied. 

And that whether it is like them or unlike 
them ? 


But that makes no difference, he said. As 
long as the sight of one thing brings another 

136 PJf^EDO. 

thing to your mind, there must be recollection, 
whether or no the two things are like. 

That is so. 

Well then, said he, do the equal pieces of 
wood, and other similar equal things, of which 
we have been speaking, affect us at all in this 
way ? Do they seem to us to be equal, in the 
way that abstract equality is equal ? Do they 
come short of being like abstract equality, or 

Indeed, they come very short of it, he replied. 

Are we agreed about this ? A man sees some- 
thing and thinks to himself, ' This thing that I 
see aims at being like some other thing ; but 
it comes short, and cannot be like that other 
thing; it is inferior:' must not the man who 
thinks that, have known at some previous time 
that other thing, which he says that it resembles, 
and to which it is inferior? 

He must. 

Well, have we ourselves had the same sort 
of feeling with reference to equal things, and to 
abstract equality ? 

Yes, certainly. 

75. Then we must have had knowledge of equality 
before we first saw equal things, and perceived 
that they all strive to be like equality, and all 
come short of it. 

That is so. 

And we are agreed also that we have not, 
nor could we have, obtained the idea of equality 
except from sight or touch or some other sense : 
the same is true of all the senses. 

PIfsEDO. 137 

Yes, Socrates, for the purposes of the argu- 
ment that is so. 

At any rate it is by the senses that we must 
perceive that all sensible objects strive to 
resemble absolute equality, and are inferior to 
it. Is not that so ? 


Then before we began to see, and to hear, 
and to use the other senses, we must have re- 
ceived the knowledge of the nature of abstract 
and real equality ; otherwise we could not have 
compared equal sensible objects with abstract 
equality, and seen that the former in all cases 
strive to be like the latter, though they are 
always inferior to it ? 

That is the necessary consequence of what 
we have been saying, Socrates. 

Did we not see, and hear, and possess the 
other senses as soon as we were born ? 

Yes, certainly. 

And we must have received the knowledge 
of abstract equality before we had these 
senses ? 


Then, it seems, we must have received that 
knowledge before we were born ? 

It does. 

Now if we received this knowledge before XX. 
our birth, and were born with it, we knew, both 
before, and at the moment of our birth, not only 
the equal, and the greater, and the less, but 
also everything of the same kind, did we not ? 
Our present reasoning does not refer only to 

138 PH&DO. 

equality. It refers just as much to absolute 
good, and absolute beauty, and absolute justice, 
and absolute holiness ; in short, I repeat, to 
everything which we mark with the name of 
the real, in the questions and answers of our 
dialectic. So we must have received our 
knowledge of all realities before we were 

That is so. 

And we must always be born with this know- 
ledge, and must always retain it throughout life, 
if we have not each time forgotten it, after hav- 
ing received it. For to know means to receive 
and retain knowledge, and not to have lost it. 
Do not we mean by forgetting the loss of 
knowledge, Simmias ? 

Yes, certainly, Socrates, he said. 

But, I suppose, if it be the case that we lost 
at birth the knowledge which we received 
before we were born, and then afterwards, by 
using our senses on the objects of sense, re- 
covered the knowledge which we had previously 
possessed, then what we call learning is the 
recovering of knowledge which is already ours 
And are we not right in calling that recollec- 
tion ? 


For we have found it possible to perceive a 
thing by sight, or hearing, or any other sense, 
and thence to form a notion of some other 
thing, like or unlike, which had been forgotten, 
but with which this thing was associated. And 
therefore, I say, one of two things must be true. 

PHsEDO. 139 

Either we are all born with this knowledge, and 
retain it all our life ; or, after birth, those whom 
we say are learning are only recollecting, and 
our knowledge is recollection. 

Yes indeed, that is undoubtedly true, Socrates. 

Then which do you choose, Simmias ? Are XXI. 
we born with knowledge, or do we recollect the 
things of which we have received knowledge 
before our birth ? 

I cannot say at present, Socrates. 

Well, have you an opinion about this ques- 
tion ? Can a man who knows give an account 
of what he knows, or not ? What do you 
think about that ? 

Yes, of course he can, Socrates. 

And do you think that every one can give 
an account of the ideas of which we have been 
speaking ? 

I wish I did, indeed, said Simmias : but I 
am very much afraid that by this time to-morrow 
there will no longer be any man living able to 
do so as it should be done. 

Then, Simmias, he said, you do not think 
that all men know these things ? 

Certainly not. 

Then they recollect what they once learned ? 


And when did our souls gain this knowledge? 
It cannot have been after we were born men. 

No, certainly not. 

Then it was before ? 


Then, Simmias, our souls existed formerly, 

140 PH&DO. 

apart from our bodies, and possessed intelli- 
gence before they came into man's shape. 1 

Unless we receive this knowledge at the 
moment of birth, Socrates. That time still 

Well, my friend : and at what other time do 
we lose it ? We agreed just now that we are 
not born with it : do we lose it at the same 
moment that we gain it ? or can you suggest 
any other time ? 

I cannot, Socrates. I did not see that I was 
talking nonsense. 

Then, Simmias, he said, is not this the truth ? 
XXII. If, as we are for ever repeating, beauty, and 
good, and the other ideas 2 really exist, and if 
we refer all the objects of sensible perception 
to these ideas which were formerly ours, and 
which we find to be ours still, and compare 
sensible objects with them, then, just as they 
exist, our souls must have existed before ever 
we were born. But if they do not exist, then 
our reasoning will have been thrown away. 
Is it so ? If these ideas exist, does it not at 

1 Cf. Wordsworth's famous Ode on Intimations of 
Immortality. It must be noticed that in one respect 
Wordsworth exactly reverses Plato's theory. With 
Wordsworth ' ' Heaven lies about us in our infancy " : 
and as we grow to manhood we gradually forget it. 
With Plato, we lose the knowledge which we possessed 
in a prior state of existence, at birth, and recover it, as 
we grow up. [Mr. Archer-Hind has a similar remark 
in his note on this passage.] 

2 For a fuller account of the ideas, see post. ch. 
xlix. , 100 B. seq. 

PH^EDO. 141 

once follow that our souls must have existed 
before we were born, and if they do not exist, 
then neither did our souls ? 

Admirably put, Socrates, said Simmias. I 
think that the necessity is the same for the one 
as for the other. The reasoning has reached 77. 
a place of safety in the common proof of the 
existence of our souls before we were born, 
and of the existence of the ideas of which you 
spoke. Nothing is so evident to me as that 
beauty, and good, and the other ideas, which you 
spoke of just now, have a very real existence 
indeed. Your proof is quite sufficient for me. 

But what of Cebes ? said Socrates. I must 
convince Cebes too. 

I think that he is satisfied, said Simmias, 
though he is the most sceptical of men in 
argument. But I think that he is perfectly 
convinced that our souls existed before we were 

But I do not think myself, Socrates, he con- XXIII. 
tinued, that you have proved that the soul will 
continue to exist when we are dead. The 
common fear which Cebes spoke of, that she 
may be scattered to the winds at death, and 
that death may be the end of her existence, still 
stands in the way. Assuming that the soul is 
generated and comes together from some other 
elements, and exists before she ever enters the 
human body, why should she not come to an 
end and be destroyed, after she has entered 
into the body, when she is released from it ? 

You are right, Simmias, said Cebes. I think 

142 PHMDO. 

that only half the required proof has been given. 
It has been shown that our souls existed before 
we were born ; but it must also be shown that 
our souls will continue to exist after we are 
dead, no less than that they existed before we 
were born, if the proof is to be complete. 

That has been shown already, Simmias and 
Cebes, said Socrates, if you will combine this 
reasoning with our previous conclusion, that all 
life is generated from death. For if the soul 
exists in a previous state, and if when she 
comes into life and is born, she can only be born 
from death, and from a state of death, must she 
not exist after death too, since she has to be 
born again ? So the point which you speak of 
has been already proved. 

XXIV. Still I think that you and Simmias would be 
glad to discuss this question further. Like 
children, you are afraid that the wind will really 
blow the soul away and disperse her when she 
leaves the body ; especially if a man happens 
to die in a storm and not in a calm. 

Cebes laughed and said, Try and convince 
us as if we were afraid, Socrates ; or rather, do 
not think that we are afraid ourselves. Per- 
haps there is a child within us who has these 
fears. Let us try and persuade him not to be 
afraid of death, as if it were a bugbear. 

You must charm him every day, until you 
have charmed him away, said Socrates. 
78. And where shall we find a good charmer, 
Socrates, he asked, now that you are leaving 
us ? 

PH&DO. 143 

Hellas is a large country, Cebes, he replied, 
and good men may doubtless be found in it ; 
and the nations of the Barbarians are many. 
You must search them all through for such a 
charmer, sparing neither money nor labour ; 
for there is nothing on which you could spend 
money more profitably. And you must search 
for him among yourselves too, for you will 
hardly find a better charmer than yourselves. 

That shall be done, said Cebes. But let us 
return to the point where we left off, if you will. 

Yes, I will : why not ? 

Very good, he replied. 

Well, said Socrates, must we not ask our- XXV. 
selves this question ? What kind of thing is 
liable to suffer dispersion, and for what kind of 
thing have we to fear dispersion ? And then 
we must see whether the soul belongs to that 
kind or not, and be confident or afraid about 
our own souls accordingly. 

That is true, he answered. 

Now is it not the compound and composite 
which is naturally liable to be dissolved in 
the same way in which it was compounded ? 
And is not what is uncompounded alone not 
liable to dissolution, if anything is not ? 

I think that that is so, said Cebes. 

And what always remains in the same state 
and unchanging is most likely to be uncom- 
pounded, and what is always changing and never 
the same is most likely to be compounded, I 
suppose ? 

Yes, I think so. 

144 PH&DO. 

Now let us return to what we were speaking 
of before in the discussion, he said. Does the 
being, which in our dialectic we define as mean- 
ing absolute existence, remain always in exactly 
the same state, or does it change ? Do absolute 
equality, absolute beauty, and every other abso- 
lute existence, admit of any change at all ? or 
does absolute existence in each case, being 
essentially uniform, remain the same and un- 
changing, and never in any case admit of any 
sort or kind of change whatsoever ? 

It must remain the same and unchanging, 
Socrates, said Cebes. 

And what of the many beautiful things, such 
as men, and horses, and garments, and the like, 
and of all which bears the names of the ideas, 
whether equal, or beautiful, or anything else ? 
Do they remain the same, or is it exactly the 
opposite with them ? In short, do they never 
remain the same at all, either in themselves or 
in their relations ? 

These things, said Cebes, never remain the 

79. You can touch them, and see them, and 
perceive them with the other senses, while you 
can grasp the unchanging only by the reasoning 
of the intellect. These latter are invisible and 
not seen. Is it not so ? 

That is perfectly true, he said. 

XXVI. Let us assume then, he said, if you will, that 
there are two kinds of existence, the one visible, 
the other invisible. 

Yes, he said. 

PH&DO. 145 

And the invisible is unchanging, while the 
visible is always changing. 

Yes, he said again. 

Are not we men made up of body and soul ? 

There is nothing else, he replied. 

And which of these kinds of existence should 
we say that the body is most like, and most 
akin to ? 

The visible, he replied ; that is quite obvious. 

And the soul ? Is that visible or invisible ? 

It is invisible to man, Socrates, he said. 

But we mean by visible and invisible, visible 
and invisible to man ; do we not ? 

Yes ; that is what we mean. 

Then what do we say of the soul ? Is it 
visible, or not visible ? 

It is not visible. 

Then is it invisible ? 


Then the soul is more like the invisible than 
the body ; and the body is like the visible. 

That is necessarily so, Socrates. 

Have we not also said that, when the soul XXVIL 
employs the body in any inquiry, and makes 
use of sight, or hearing, or any other sense, 
for inquiry with the body means inquiry with 
the senses, she is dragged away by it to the 
things which never remain the same, and 
wanders about blindly, and becomes confused 
and dizzy, like a drunken man, from dealing 
with things that are ever changing ? 


But when she investigates any question by 

146 PH&DO. 

herself, she goes away to the pure, and eternal, 
and immortal, and unchangeable, to which she 
is akin, and so she comes to be ever with it, as 
soon as she is by herself, and can be so : and 
then she rests from her wanderings, and dwells 
with it unchangingly, for she is dealing with 
what is unchanging? And is not this state of 
the soul called wisdom ? 

Indeed, Socrates, you speak well and truly, he 

Which kind of existence do you think from 
our former and our present arguments that the 
soul is more like and more akin to ? 

I think, Socrates, he replied, that after this 
inquiry the very dullest man would agree that 
the soul is infinitely more like the unchangeable 
than the changeable. 

And the body ? 

That is like the changeable. 

XXVIII. Consider the matter in yet another way. 
80. When the soul and the body are united, nature 
ordains the one to be a slave and to be ruled, 
and the other to be master and to rule. Tell 
me once again, which do you think is like the 
divine, and which is like the mortal ? Do you 
not think that the divine naturally rules and 
has authority, and that the mortal naturally is 
ruled and is a slave ? 

I do. 

Then which is the soul like ? 

That is quite plain, Socrates. The soul is 
like the divine, and the body is like the mortal. 

Now tell me, Cebes ; is the result of all that 

PH^EDO. 147 

we have said that the soul is most like the 
divine, and the immortal, and the intelligible, 
and the uniform, and the indissoluble, and the 
unchangeable ; while the body is most like the 
human, and the mortal, and the unintelligible, 
and the multiform, and the dissoluble, and the 
changeable ? Have we any other argument to 
show that this is not so, my dear Cebes ? 

We have not. 

Then if this is so, is it not the nature of the XXIX. 
body to be dissolved quickly, and of the soul to 
be wholly or very nearly indissoluble? 1 


You observe, he said, that after a man is 
dead, the visible part of him, his body, which 
lies in the visible world, and which we call the 
corpse, which is subject to dissolution and de- 
composition, is not dissolved and decomposed 
at once ? It remains as it was for a consider- 
able time, and even for a long time, if a man 
dies with his body in good condition, and in the 
vigour of life. And when the body falls in and 
is embalmed, like the mummies of Egypt, it 
remains nearly entire for an immense time. 
And should it decay, yet some parts of it, such 
as the bones and muscles, may almost be said 
to be immortal. Is it not so ? 


1 Compare Bishop Butler's Analogy, Pt. i. ch. i, 
where a similar argument is used : the soul being indis- 
cerptible is immortal. The argument based on the 
' divine ' nature of the soul is, of course, also a modern 
one. See^. Lord Tennyson, In Menwriam, LIV. -LVI. 

148 PHMDO. 

And shall we believe that the soul, which is 
invisible, and which goes hence to a place that 
is like herself, glorious, and pure, and invisible, 
to Hades, which is rightly called the unseen 
world, to dwell with the good and wise God, 
whither, if it be the will of God, my soul too 
must shortly go ; shall we believe that the 
soul, whose nature is so glorious, and pure, and 
invisible, is blown away by the winds and 
perishes as soon as she leaves the body, as the 
world says ? Nay, dear Cebes and Simmias, 
it is not so. I will tell you what happens to a 
soul which is pure at her departure, and which 
in her life has had no intercourse that she could 
avoid with the body, and so draws after her, 
when she dies, no taint of the body, but has 
shunned it, and gathered herself into herself, 
for such has been her constant study ; and 
that only means that she has loved wisdom 
81 rightly, and has truly practised how to die. Is 
not this the practice of death ? 

Yes, certainly. 

Does not the soul, then, which is in that 
state, go away to the invisible that is like her- 
self, and to the divine, and the immortal, and 
the wise, where she is released from error, and 
folly, and fear, and fierce passions, and all the 
other evils that fall to the lot of men, and is 
happy, and for the rest of time lives in very 
truth with the gods, as they say that the 
initiated do ? Shall we affirm this, Cebes ? 

Yes, certainly, said Cebes. 
XXX. But if she be defiled and impure when she 

PH&DO. 149 

leaves the body, from being ever with it, and 
serving it and loving it, and from being besotted 
by it, and by its desires and pleasures, so that 
she thinks nothing true, but what is bodily, and 
can be touched, and seen, and eaten, and drunk, 
and used for men's lusts ; if she has learnt to 
hate, and tremble at, and fly from what is dark 
and invisible to the eye, and intelligible and 
apprehended by philosophy do you think 
that a soul which is in that state will be pure 
and without alloy at her departure ? 

No, indeed, he replied. 

She is penetrated, I suppose, by the cor- 
poreal, which the unceasing intercourse and 
company and care of the body has made a part 
of her nature. 


And, my dear friend, the corporeal must be 
burdensome, and heavy, and earthy, and visible ; 
and it is by this that such a soul is weighed 
down and dragged back to the visible world, 
because she is afraid of the invisible world of 
Hades, and haunts, it is said, the graves and 
tombs, where shadowy forms of souls have been 
seen, which are the phantoms of souls which 
were impure at their release, and still cling to 
the visible ; which is the reason why they are 


That is likely enough, Socrates. 

That is likely, certainly, Cebes : and these 
are not the souls of the good, but of the evil, 
which are compelled to wander in such places 
1 Professor Jowett compares Milton, Comus, 463 foil. 

150 PH&DO. 

as a punishment for the wicked lives that they 
have lived ; and their wanderings continue 
until, from the desire for the corporeal that 
clings to them, they are again imprisoned in a 

XXXI. And, he continued, they are imprisoned, 
probably, in the bodies of animals with habits 
similar to the habits which were theirs in their 

What do you mean by that, Socrates ? 

I mean that men who have practised un- 
bridled gluttony, and wantonness, and drunken- 
ness, probably enter the bodies of asses, and 
82. suchlike animals. Do you not think so ? 

Certainly that is very likely. 

And those who have chosen injustice, and 
tyranny, and robbery, enter the bodies of wolves, 
and hawks, and kites. Where else should we 
say that such souls go ? 

No doubt, said Cebes, they go into such 

In short, it is quite plain, he said, whither 
each soul goes ; each enters an animal with 
habits like its own. 

Certainly, he replied, that is so. 

And of these, he said, the happiest, who go 
to the best place, are those who have prac- 
tised the popular and social virtues which are 
called temperance and justice, and which come 
from habit and practice, without philosophy or 
reason ? 

And why are they the happiest ? 

Because it is probable that they return into 


a mild and social nature like their own, such 
as that of bees, or wasps, or ants ; or, it may 
be, into the bodies of men, and that from them 
are made worthy citizens. 

Very likely. 

But none but the philosopher or the lover of XXXII. 
knowledge, who is wholly pure when he goes 
hence, is permitted to go to the race of the 
gods ; and therefore, my friends Simmias and 
Cebes, the true philosopher is temperate, and 
refrains from all the pleasures of the body, and 
does not give himself up to them. It is not 
squandering his substance and poverty that he 
fears, as the multitude and the lovers of wealth 
do ; nor again does he dread the dishonour and 
disgrace of wickedness, like the lovers of power 
and honour. It is not for these reasons, that 
he is temperate. 

No, it would be unseemly in him if he were, 
Socrates, said Cebes. 

Indeed it would, he replied : and therefore 
all those who have any care for their souls, and 
who do not spend their lives in forming and 
moulding their bodies, bid farewell to such 
persons, and do not walk in their ways, think- 
ing that they know not whither they are going. 
They themselves turn and follow whithersoever 
philosophy leads them, for they believe that 
they ought not to resist philosophy, or its 
deliverance and purification. 

How, Socrates ? 

I will tell you, he replied. The lovers of XXXIII. 
knowledge know that when philosophy receives 

152 PH&DO. 

the soul, she is fast bound in the body, and 
fastened to it : she is unable to contemplate 
what is, by herself, or except through the bars 
of her prison - house, the body ; and she is 
wallowing in utter ignorance. And philosophy 
sees that the dreadful thing about the imprison- 
ment is that it is caused by lust, and that the 
83. captive herself is an accomplice in her own 
captivity. The lovers of knowledge, I repeat, 
know that philosophy takes the soul when she 
is in this condition, and gently encourages her, 
and strives to release her from her captivity, 
showing her that the perceptions of the eye, and 
the ear, and the other senses, are full of deceit, 
and persuading her to stand aloof from the 
senses, and to use them only when she must, 
and exhorting her to rally and gather herself 
together, and to trust only to herself, and to the 
real existence which she of her own self appre- 
hends : and to believe that nothing which is 
subject to change, and which she perceives by 
other faculties, has any truth, for such things 
are visible and sensible, while what she herself 
sees is apprehended by reason and invisible. 
The soul of the true philosopher thinks that it 
would be wrong to resist this deliverance from 
captivity, and therefore she holds aloof, so far 
as she can, from pleasure, and desire, and pain, 
and fear ; for she reckons that when a man has 
vehement pleasure, or fear, or pain, or desire, he 
suffers from them, not merely the evils which 
might be expected, such as sickness, or some 
loss arising from the indulgence of his desires ; 


he suffers what is the greatest and last of evils, 
and does not take it into account. 

What do you mean, Socrates ? asked Cebes. 

I mean that when the soul of any man feels 
vehement pleasure or pain, she is forced at the 
same time to think that the object, whatever it 
be, of these sensations is the most distinct and 
truest, when it is not. Such objects are chiefly 
visible ones, are they not ? 

They are. 

And is it not in this state that the soul is 
most completely in bondage to the body ? 

How so ? 

Because every pleasure and pain has a kind 
of nail, and nails and pins her to the body, and 
gives her a bodily nature, making her think 
that whatever the body says is true. And so, 
from having the same fancies and the same 
pleasures as the body, she is obliged, I suppose, 
to come to have the same ways, and way of life : 
she must always be defiled with the body when 
she leaves it, and cannot be pure when she 
reaches the other world ; and so she soon falls 
back into another body, and takes root in it, 
like seed that is sown. Therefore she loses all 
part in intercourse with the divine, and pure, 
and uniform. 

That is very true, Socrates, said Cebes. 

It is for these reasons then, Cebes, that the XXXIV, 
real lovers of knowledge are temperate and 
brave ; and not for the world's reasons. Or 
do you think so ? 84. 

No, certainly I do not. 

154 P HAL DO. 

Assuredly not. 1 The soul of a philosopher 
will consider that it is the office of philosophy 
to set her free. She will know that she must 
not give herself up once more to the bondage 
of pleasure and pain, from which philosophy is 
releasing her, and, like Penelope, do a work, 
only to undo it continually, weaving instead of 
unweaving her web. She gains for herself 
peace from these things, and follows reason 
and ever abides in it, contemplating what is 
true and divine and real, and fostered up by 
them. So she thinks that she should live in 
this life, and when she dies she believes that 
she will go to what is akin to and like herself, 
and be released from human ills. A soul, 
Simmias and Cebes, that has been so nurtured, 
and so trained, will never fear lest she should 
be torn in pieces at her departure from the 
body, and blown away by the winds, and vanish, 
and utterly cease to exist. 

XXXV. At these words there was a long silence. 
Socrates himself seemed to be absorbed in his 
argument, and so were most of us. Cebes and 
Simmias conversed for a little by themselves. 
When Socrates observed them, he said : What ? 
Do you think that our reasoning is incomplete ? 
It still offers many points of doubt and attack, 
if it is to be examined thoroughly. If you are 
discussing another question, I have nothing to 
say. But if you have any difficulty about this 
one, do not hesitate to tell me what it is, and, 
if you are of opinion that the argument should 
1 Reading, ov yap' d\X', with Stallbaum. 


be stated in a better way, explain your views 
yourselves : and take me along with you, if 
you think that you will be more successful in 
my company. 

Simmias replied : Well, Socrates, I will tell 
you the truth. Each of us has a difficulty, and 
each has been pushing on the other, and urging 
him to ask you about it. We were anxious 
to hear what you have to say ; but we were 
reluctant to trouble you, for we were afraid 
that it might be unpleasant to you to be asked 
questions now. 

Socrates smiled at this answer, and said, 
Dear me! Simmias; I shall find it hard to 
convince other people that I do not consider 
my fate a misfortune, when I cannot convince 
even you of it, and you are afraid that I am 
more peevish now than I used to be. You 
seem to think me inferior in prophetic power 
to the swans, which, when they find that they 
have to die, sing more loudly than they ever 
sang before, for joy that they are about to depart 85. 
into the presence of God, whose servants they 
are. The fear which men have of death them- 
selves makes them speak falsely of the swans, 
and they say that the swan is wailing at its 
death, and that it sings loud for grief. They 
forget that no bird sings when it is hungry, or 
cold, or in any pain ; not even the nightingale, 
nor the swallow, nor the hoopoe, which, they 
assert, wail and sing for grief. But I think 
that neither these birds nor the swan sing for 
grief. I believe that they have a prophetic 

156 PH^EDO. 

power and foreknowledge of the good things in 
the next world, for they are Apollo's birds : and 
so they sing and rejoice on the day of their 
death, more than in all their life. And I believe 
that I myself am a fellow slave with the swans, 
and consecrated to the service of the same God, 
and that I have prophetic power from my master 
no less than they ; and that I am not more 
despondent than they are at leaving this life. 
So, as far as vexing me goes, you may talk to 
me and ask questions as you please, as long as 
the Eleven of the Athenians 1 will let you. 

Good, said Simmias ; I will tell you my 
difficulty, and Cebes will tell you why he is 
dissatisfied with your statement. I think, Soc- 
rates, and I daresay you think so too, that it is 
very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to obtain 
clear knowledge about these matters in this life. 
Yet I should hold him to be a very poor creature 
who did not test what is said about them in 
every way, and persevere until he had examined 
the question from every side, and could do no 
more. It is our duty to do one of two things. 
We must learn, or we must discover for our- 
selves, the truth of these matters ; or, if that be 
impossible, we must take the best and most 
irrefragable of human doctrines, and embarking 
on that, as on a raft, risk the voyage of life, 2 
unless a stronger vessel, some divine word, 
could be found, on which we might take our 

1 Officials whose duty it was to superintend executions. 
Cp. ante, 59. E. 

2 See Bishop Butler's Analogy, Introduction. 

Pff^DO. 157 

journey more safely and more securely. And 
now, after what you have said, I shall not be 
ashamed to put a question to you : and then 
I shall not have to blame myself hereafter for 
not having said now what I think. Cebes and 
I have been considering your argument ; and 
we think that it is hardly sufficient. 

I daresay you are right, my friend, said XXXVI. 
Socrates. But tell me, where is it insufficient? 

To me it is insufficient, he replied, because 
the very same argument might be used of a 
harmony, and a lyre, and its strings. It might 
be said that the harmony in a tuned lyre is 
something unseen, and incorporeal, and per- 
fectly beautiful, and divine, while the lyre and its 86. 
strings are corporeal, and with the nature of 
bodies, and compounded, and earthly, and akin 
to the mortal. Now suppose that, when the lyre 
is broken and the strings are cut or snapped, a 
man were to press the same argument that you 
have used, and were to say that the harmony 
cannot have perished, and that it must still exist : 
for it cannot possibly be that the lyre and the 
strings, with their mortal nature, continue to 
exist, though those strings have been broken, 
while the harmony, which is of the same nature 
as the divine and the immortal, and akin to 
them, has perished, and perished before the 
mortal lyre. He would say that the harmony 
itself must still exist somewhere, and that the 
wood and the strings will rot away before any- 
thing happens to it. And I think, Socrates, 
that you too must be aware that many of us 

158 PH^EDO. 

believe the soul to be most probably a mixture 
and harmony of the elements by which our 
body is, as it were, strung and held together, 
such as heat and cold, and dry and wet, and 
the like, when they are mixed together well and 
in due proportion. Now if the soul is a har- 
mony, it is clear that, when the body is relaxed 
out of proportion, or over-strung by disease or 
other evils, the soul, though most divine, must 
perish at once, like other harmonies of sound 
and of all works of art, while what remains of 
each body must remain for a long time, until it 
be burnt or rotted away. What then shall we 
say to a man who asserts that the soul, being a 
mixture of the elements of the body, perishes 
first, at what is called death ? 

XXXVII. Socrates looked keenly at us, as he often 
used to do, and smiled. Simmias' objection is 
a fair one, he said. If any of you is readier 
than I am, why does he not answer ? For 
Simmias looks like a formidable assailant. But 
before we answer him, I think that we had 
better hear what fault Cebes has to find with 
my reasoning, and so gain time to consider our 
reply. And then, when we have heard them 
both, we must either give in to them, if they 
seem to harmonise, or, if they do not, we must 
proceed to argue in defence of our reasoning. 
Come, Cebes, what is it that troubles you, and 
makes you doubt ? 

I will tell you, replied Cebes. I think that 

the argument is just where it was, and still open 

87. to our former objection. You have shown very 

PHsEDO. 159 

cleverly, and, if it is not arrogant to say so, 
quite conclusively, that our souls existed before 
they entered the human form. I don't re- 
tract my admission on that point. But I am 
not convinced that they will continue to exist 
after we are dead. I do not agree with Simmias' 
objection, that the soul is not stronger and 
more lasting than the body : I think that it is 
very much superior in those respects. ' Well, 
then,' the argument might reply, ' do you still 
doubt, when you see that the weaker part of 
a man continues to exist after his death ? 
Do you not think that the more lasting part 
of him must necessarily be preserved for as 
long ? ' See, therefore, if there is anything in 
what I say ; for I think that I, like Simmias, 
shall best express my meaning in a figure. It 
seems to me that a man might use an argument 
similar to yours, to prove that a weaver, who 
had died in old age, had not in fact perished, but 
was still alive somewhere ; on the ground that 
the garment, which the weaver had woven for 
himself and used to wear, had not perished or 
been destroyed. And if any one were incredu- 
lous, he might ask whether a human being, or 
a garment constantly in use and wear, lasts the 
longest ; and on being told that a human being 
lasts much the longest, he might think that he 
had shown beyond all doubt that the man was 
safe, because what lasts a shorter time than the 
man had not perished. But that, I suppose, is 
not so, Simmias ; for you too must examine 
what I say. Every one would understand that 

160 PHMDO. 

such an argument was simple nonsense. This 
weaver wove himself many such garments and 
wore them out ; he outlived them all but the 
last, but he perished before that one. Yet a 
man is in no wise inferior to his cloak, or weaker 
than it, on that account. And I think that the 
soul's relation to the body may be expressed in a 
similar figure. Why should not a man very 
reasonably say in just the same way that the 
soul lasts a long time, while the body is weaker 
and lasts a shorter time ? But, he might go 
on, each soul wears out many bodies, especially 
if she lives for many years. For if the body is 
in a state of flux and decay in the man's life- 
time, and the soul is ever repairing the worn- 
out part, it will surely follow that the soul, on 
perishing, will be clothed in her last robe, and 
perish before that alone. But when the soul 
has perished, then the body will show its 
weakness and quickly rot away. So as yet we 
have no right to be confident, on the strength 
of this argument, that our souls continue to 
88. exist after we are dead. And a man might con- 
cede even more than this to an opponent who 
used your argument ; l he might admit not only 
that our souls existed in the period before we 
were born, but also that there is no reason why 
some of them should not continue to exist in 
the future, and often come into being, and die 
again, after we are dead ; for the soul is strong 
enough by nature to endure coming into being 
many times. He might grant that, without 
1 Reading T$ \eyovri & crv \tyeis (Schanz). 

PH&DO. 161 

conceding that she suffers no harm in all these 
births, or that she is not at last wholly destroyed 
at one of the deaths ; and he might say that no 
man knows when this death and dissolution of 
the body, which brings destruction to the soul, 
will be, for it is impossible for any man to find 
out that. But if this is true, a man's confidence 
about death must be an irrational confidence, 
unless he can prove that the soul is wholly 
indestructible and immortal. Otherwise every 
one who is dying must fear that his soul will 
perish utterly this time in her separation from 
the body. 

It made us all very uncomfortable to listen XXXVIII. 
to them, as we afterwards said to each other. 
We had been fully convinced by the previous 
argument ; and now they seemed to overturn 
our conviction, and to make us distrust all the 
arguments that were to come, as well as the 
preceding ones, and to doubt if our judgment 
was worth anything, or even if certainty could 
be attained at all. 

Ech. By the gods, Pha?do, I can understand 
your feelings very well. I myself felt inclined 
while you were speaking to ask myself, ' Then 
what reasoning are we to believe in future ? 
That of Socrates was quite convincing, and 
now it has fallen into discredit.' For the 
doctrine that our soul is a harmony has always 
taken a wonderful hold of me, and your mention- 
ing it reminded me that I myself had held it. 
And now I must begin again and find some 
other reasoning which shall convince me that 

162 PffsEDO. 

a man's soul does not die with him at his death. 
So tell me, I pray you, how did Socrates pursue 
the argument ? Did he show any signs of 
uneasiness, as you say that you did, or did he 
come to the defence of his argument calmly ? 
And did he defend it satisfactorily or no ? Tell 
me the whole story as exactly as you can. 
89. Phtzdo. I have often, Echecrates, wondered at 
Socrates ; but I never admired him more than 
I admired him then. There was nothing very 
strange in his having an answer : what I chiefly 
wondered at was, first, the kindness and good- 
nature and respect with which he listened to 
the young men's objections ; and, secondly, the 
quickness with which he perceived their effect 
upon us ; and, lastly, how well he healed our 
wounds, and rallied us as if we were beaten and 
flying troops, and encouraged us to follow him, 
and to examine the reasoning with him. 

Ech. How? 

Phcedo. I will tell you. I was sitting by the 
bed on a stool at his right hand, and his seat 
was a good deal higher than mine. He stroked 
my head and gathered up the hair on my neck 
in his hand you know he used often to play 
with my hair and said, To-morrow, Phaedo, 
I daresay you will cut off these beautiful locks. 

I suppose so, Socrates, I replied. 

You will not, if you take my advice. 

Why not ? I asked. 

You and I will cut off our hair to-day, he 
said, if our argument be dead indeed, and we 
cannot bring it to life again. And I, if I were 

PH^DO. 163 

you, and the argument were to escape me, 
would swear an oath, as the Argives did, not 
to wear my hair long again, until I "had renewed 
the fight and conquered the argument of Simmias 
and Cebes. 

But Heracles himself, they say, is not a 
match for two, I replied. 

Then summon me to aid you, as your lolaus, 
while there is still light. 

Then I summon you, not as Heracles 
summoned lolaus, but as lolaus might summon 

It will be the same, he replied. But first let XXXIX. 
us take care not to make a mistake. 

What mistake ? I asked. 

The mistake of becoming misologists, or 
haters of reasoning, as men become misan- 
thropists, he replied : for to hate reasoning is 
the greatest evil that can happen to us. Miso- 
logy and misanthropy both come from similar 
causes. The latter arises out of the implicit 
and irrational confidence which is placed in 
a man, who is believed by his friend to be 
thoroughly true and sincere and trustworthy, 
and who is soon afterwards discovered to be a 
bad man and untrustworthy. This happens 
again and again ; and when a man has had 
this experience many times, particularly at 
the hands of those whom he has believed to 
be his nearest and dearest friends, and he has 
quarrelled with many of them, he ends by hating 
all men, and thinking that there is no good at 
all in any one. Have you not seen this happen? 

164 PHJZDO. 

Yes, certainly, said I. 

Is it not discreditable ? he said. Is it not 
clear that sach a man tries to deal with men 
without understanding human nature ? Had 
he understood it he would have known that, 
9O. in fact, good men and bad men are very few 
indeed, and that the majority of men are 
neither one nor the other. 

What do you mean ? I asked. 

Just what is true of extremely large and 
extremely small things, he replied. What is 
rarer than to find a man, or a dog, or anything 
else which is either extremely large or ex- 
tremely small ? Or again, what is rarer than 
to find a man who is extremely swift or slow, 
or extremely base or honourable, or extremely 
black or white ? Have you not noticed that in 
all these cases the extremes are rare and few, 
and that the average specimens are abundant 
and many ? 

Yes, certainly, I replied. 

And in the same way, if there were a com- 
petition in wickedness, he said, don't you think 
that the leading sinners would be found to be 
very few ? 

That is likely enough, said I. 

Yes, it is, he replied. But this is not the 
point in which arguments are like men : it was 
you who led me on to discuss this point. The 
analogy is this. When a man believes some 
reasoning to be true, though he does not under- 
stand the art of reasoning, and then soon after- 
wards, rightly or wrongly, comes to think that 

Pff^DO. 165 

it is false, and this happens to him time after 
time, he ends by disbelieving in reasoning alto- 
gether. You know that persons who spend 
their time in disputation, come at last to think 
themselves the wisest of men, and to imagine 
that they alone have discovered that there is 
no soundness or certainty anywhere, either in 
reasoning or in things ; and that all existence 
is in a state of perpetual flux, like the currents 
of the Euripus, and never remains still for a 

Yes, I replied, that is certainly true. 

And, Phasdo, he said, if there be a system of 
reasoning which is true, and certain, and which 
our minds can grasp, it would be very lament- 
able that a man, who has met with some of 
these arguments which at one time seem true 
and at another false, should at last, in the bitter- 
ness of his heart gladly put all the blame on 
the reasoning, instead of on himself and his own 
unskilfulness, and spend the rest of his life in 
hating and reviling reasoning, and lose the 
truth and knowledge of reality. 

Indeed, I replied, that would be very lament- 

First then, he said, let us be careful not to XL. 
admit into our souls the notion that all reason- 
ing is very likely unsound : let us rather think 
that we ourselves are not yet sound. And we 
must strive earnestly like men to become sound, 
you, my friends, for the sake of all your future 
life ; and I, because of my death. For I am 91. 
afraid that at present I can hardly look at 

166 PHsEDO, 

death like a philosopher ; I am in a conten- 
tious mood, like the uneducated persons who 
never give a thought to the truth of the 
question about which they are disputing, but 
are only anxious to persuade their audience that 
they themselves are right. And I think that 
to-day I shall differ from them only in one 
thing. I shall not be anxious to persuade my 
audience that I am right, except by the way ; 
but I shall be very anxious indeed to persuade 
myself. For see, my dear friend, how selfish 
my reasoning is. If what I say is true, it is 
well to believe it. But if there is nothing after 
death, at any rate I shall pain my friends less 
by my lamentations in the interval before I die. 
And this ignorance will not last for ever that 
would have been an evil it will soon come to 
an end. So prepared, Simmias and Cebes, he 
said, I come to the argument. And you, if 
you take my advice, will think not of Socrates, 
but of the truth ; and you will agree with me, 
if you think that what I say is true : otherwise 
you will oppose me with every argument that 
you have : and be careful that, in my anxiety to 
convince you, I do not deceive both you and 
myself, and go away, leaving my sting behind 
me, like a bee. 

XLI. Now let us proceed, he said. And first, if 
you find I have forgotten your arguments, 
repeat them. Simmias, I think, has fears and 
misgivings that the soul, being of the nature of 
a harmony, may perish before the body, though 
she is more divine and nobler than the body. 

PH&DO. 167 

Cebes, if I am not mistaken, conceded that the 
soul is more enduring than the body ; but he 
said that no one could tell whether the soul, 
after wearing out many bodies many times, did 
not herself perish on leaving her last body, and 
whether death be not precisely this, the destruc- ' 
tion of the soul ; for the destruction of the 
body is unceasing. Is there anything else, 
Simmias and Cebes, which we have to 
examine ? 

They both agreed that these were the ques- 

Do you reject all our previous conclusions, 
he asked, or only some of them ? 

Only some of them, they replied. 

Well, said he, what do you say of our doctrine 
that knowledge is recollection, and that therefore 
our souls must necessarily have existed some- 
where else, before they were imprisoned in our 
bodies ? 92. 

I, replied Cebes, was convinced by it at the 
time in a wonderful way : and now there is no 
doctrine to which I adhere more firmly. 

And I am of that mind too, said Simmias ; 
and I shall be very much surprised if I ever 
change it. 

But, my Theban friend, you will have to 
change it, said Socrates, if this opinion of 
yours, that a harmony is a composite thing, and 
that the soul is a harmony composed of the ele- 
ments of the body at the right tension, is to stand. 
You will hardly allow yourself to assert that the 
harmony was in existence before the things from 

1 68 PH^DO. 

which it was to be composed ? Will you do 
that ? 

Certainly not, Socrates. 

But you see that that is what your assertion 
comes to when you say that the soul existed 
before she came into the form and body of man, 
and yet that she is composed of elements which 
did not yet exist ? Your harmony is not like 
what you compare it to : the lyre and the strings 
and the sounds, as yet untuned, come into exist- 
ence first : and the harmony is composed last 
of all, and perishes first. How will this belief 
of yours accord with the other ? 

It will not, replied Simmias. 

And yet, said he, an argument about harmony 
is hardly the place for a discord. 

No, indeed, said Simmias. 

Well, there is a discord in your argument, 
he said. You must choose which doctrine you 
will retain, that knowledge is recollection, or 
that the soul is a harmony. 

The former, Socrates, certainly, he replied. 
The latter has never been demonstrated to me ; 
it rests only on probable and plausible grounds, 
which make it a popular opinion. I know that 
doctrines which ground their proofs on prob- 
abilities are impostors, and that they are very 
apt to mislead, both in geometry and everything 
else, if one is not on one's guard against them. 
But the doctrine about recollection and know- 
ledge rests upon a foundation which claims 
belief. We agreed that the soul exists before 
she ever enters the body, as surely as the 

PH&DO. 169 

essence itself which has the name of real being, 
exists. 1 And I am persuaded that I believe in 
this essence rightly and on sufficient evidence. 
It follows therefore, I suppose, that I cannot 
allow myself or any one else to say that the 
soul is a harmony. 

And, consider the question in another way, XLII. 
Simmias, said Socrates. Do you think that a 93. 
harmony or any other composition can exist in 
a state other than the state of the elements of 
which it is composed ? 

Certainly not. 

Nor, I suppose, can it do or suffer anything 
beyond what they do and suffer ? 

He assented. 

A harmony therefore cannot lead the ele- 
ments of which it is composed ; it must follow 
them ? 

He agreed. 

And much less can it be moved, or make a 
sound, or do anything else, in opposition to its 

Much less, indeed, he replied. 

Well ; is not every harmony by nature a 
harmony according as it is adjusted ? 

I don't understand you, he replied. 

If it is tuned more, and to a greater extent, 
he said, supposing that to be possible, will it 
not be more a harmony, and to a greater extent, 
while if it is tuned less, and to a smaller extent, 
will it not be less a harmony, and to a smaller 
extent ? 

1 Reading ai/rrj for avrijt (Schanz). 

1 70 PH&DO. 


Well, is this true of the soul ? Can one soul 
be more a soul, and to a greater extent, or less 
a soul, and to a smaller extent, than another, 
even in the smallest degree ? 

Certainly not, he replied. 

Well then, he replied, please tell me this ; is 
not one soul said to have intelligence and virtue 
and to be good, while another is said to have 
folly and vice and to be bad ? And is it not 
true ? 

Yes, certainly. 

What then will those, who assert that the soul 
is a harmony, say that the virtue and the vice 
which are in our souls are ? Another harmony 
and another discord ? Will they say that the 
good soul is in tune, and that, herself a harmony, 
she has within herself another harmony, and 
that the bad soul is out of tune herself, and has 
no other harmony within her ? 

I, said Simmias, cannot tell. But it is clear 
that they would have to say something of the 

But it has been conceded, he said, that one 
soul is never more or less a soul than another. 
In other words, we have agreed that one har- 
mony is never more, or to a greater extent, or 
less, or to a smaller extent a harmony than 
another. Is it not so ? 

Yes, certainly. 

And the harmony which is neither more nor 
less a harmony, is not more or less tuned. Is 
that so ? 

PHJEDO, 171 


And has that which is neither more nor less 
tuned, a greater, or a less, or an equal share of 
harmony ? 

An equal share. 

Then, since one soul is never more nor less 
a soul than another, it has not been more or less 
tuned either ? 


Therefore it can have no greater share of 
harmony or of discord ? 

Certainly not. 

And, therefore, can one soul contain more 
vice or virtue than another, if vice be discord, 
and virtue harmony ? 

By no means. 

Or rather, Simmias, to speak quite accurately, 94. 
I suppose that there will be no vice in any soul, 
if the soul is a harmony. I take it, there can 
never be any discord in a harmony, which is a 
perfect harmony. 

Certainly not. 

Neither can a soul, if it be a perfect soul, 
have any vice in it ? 

No ; that follows necessarily from what has 
been said. 

Then the result of this reasoning is that all 
the souls of all living creatures will be equally 
good, if the nature of all souls is to be equally 

Yes, I think so, Socrates, he said. 

And do you think that this is true, he asked, 
and that this would have been the fate of our 

172 PffsEDO. 

argument, if the hypothesis that the soul is a 
harmony had been correct ? 

No, certainly not, he replied. 

XLIII. Well, said he, of all the parts of a man, should 
you not say that it was the soul, and particularly 
the wise soul, which rules ? 

I should. 

Does she yield to the passions of the body, 
or does she oppose them ? I mean this. . When 
the body is hot and thirsty, does not the soul 
drag it away and prevent it from drinking, and 
when it is hungry does she not prevent it from 
eating ? And do we not see her opposing the 
passions of the body in a thousand other ways ? 

Yes, certainly. 

But we have also agreed that, if she is a 
harmony, she can never give a sound contrary 
to the tensions, and relaxations, and vibrations, 
and other changes of the elements of which she 
is composed ; that she must follow them, and 
can never lead them ? 

Yes, he replied, we certainly have. 

Well, now do we not find the soul acting in 
just the opposite way, and leading all the 
elements of which she is said to consist, and 
opposing them in almost everything all through 
life ; and lording it over them in every way, 
and chastising them, sometimes severely, and 
with a painful discipline, such as gymnastic and 
medicine, and sometimes lightly ; sometimes 
threatening and sometimes admonishing the 
desires and passions and fears, as though she 
were speaking to something other than herself, 

PH&DO. 173 

as Homer makes Odysseus do in the Odyssey, 
where he says that 

" He smote upon his breast, and chid his heart : 
' Endure, my heart, e'en worse hast thou endured.'" 1 

Do you think that when Homer wrote that, he 
supposed the soul to be a harmony, and capable 
of being led by the passions of the body, and 
not of a nature to lead them, and be their lord, 
being herself far too divine a thing to be like a 
harmony ? 

Certainly, Socrates, I think not. 

Then, my excellent friend, it is quite wrong 
to say that the soul is a harmony. For then, 
you see, we should not be in agreement either 
with the divine poet Homer, or with ourselves. 95. 

That is true, he replied. 

Very good, said Socrates ; I think that we XLIV. 
have contrived to appease our Theban Har- 
monia with tolerable success. But how about 
Cadmus, Cebes ? he said. How shall we 
appease him, and with what reasoning ? 

I daresay that you will find out how to do 
it, said Cebes. At all events you have argued 
that the soul is not a harmony in a way which 
surprised me very much. When Simmias 
was stating his objection, I wondered how any 
one could possibly dispose of his argument : 
and so I was very much surprised to see it fall 
before the very first onset of yours. I should 
not wonder if the same fate awaited the argu- 
ment of Cadmus. 

1 Horn. Od., xx. 17. 

174 PHSEDO. 

My good friend, said Socrates, do not be 
over confident, or some evil eye will overturn 
the argument that is to come. However, that 
we will leave to God ; let us, like Homer's 
heroes, ' advancing boldly,' see if there is any- 
thing in what you say. The sum of what you 
seek is this. You require me to prove to you 
that the soul is indestructible and immortal ; 
for if it be not so, you think that the confidence 
of a philosopher, who is confident in death, and 
who believes that when he is dead he will fare 
infinitely better in the other world than if he 
had lived a different sort of life in this world, 
is a foolish and idle confidence. You say 
that to show that the soul is strong and 
godlike, and that she existed before we were 
born men, is not enough ; for that does not 
necessarily prove her immortality, but only 
that she lasts a long time, and has existed 
an enormous while, and has known and done 
many things in a previous state. Yet she 
is not any the more immortal for that : her 
very entrance into man's body was, like a disease, 
the beginning of her destruction. And, you 
say, she passes this life in misery, and at last 
perishes in what we call death. You think that 
it makes no difference at all to the fears of each 
one of us, whether she enters the body once or 
many times : for every one but a fool must fear 
death, if he does not know and cannot prove 
that she is immortal. That, I think, Cebes, is 
the substance of your objection. I state it 
again and again on purpose, that nothing may 


escape us, and that you may add to it or take 
away from it anything that you wish. 

Cebes replied : No, that is my meaning. I 
don't want to add or to take away anything at 

Socrates paused for some time and thought. XLV. 
Then he said, It is not an easy question that 
you are raising, Cebes. We must examine 
fully the whole subject of the causes of genera- 
tion and decay. If you like, I will give you QQ. 
my own experiences, and if you think that you 
can make use of anything that I say, you may 
employ it to satisfy your misgivings. 

Indeed, said Cebes, I should like to hear 
your experiences. 

Listen, then, and I will tell you, Cebes, he 
replied. When I was a young man, I had a 
passionate desire for the wisdom which is called 
Physical Science. I thought it a splendid thing 
to know the causes of everything ; why a thing 
comes into being, and why it perishes, and why 
it exists. I was always worrying myself with 
such questions as, Do living creatures take a 
definite form, as some persons say, from the 
fermentation of heat and cold ? Is it the 
blood, or the air, or fire by which we think ? 
Or is it none of these, but the brain which gives 
the senses of hearing and sight and smell, and 
do memory and opinion come from these, and 
knowledge from memory and opinion when in 
a state of quiescence ? Again, I used to examine 
the destruction of these things, and the changes 
of the heaven and the earth, until at last I con- 

176 Pff^EDO. 

eluded that I was wholly and absolutely unfitted 
for these studies. I will prove that to you 
conclusively. I was so completely blinded by 
these studies, that I forgot what I had formerly 
seemed to myself and to others to know quite 
well : I unlearnt all that I had been used to 
think that I understood ; even the cause of 
man's growth. Formerly I had thought it 
evident on the face of it that the cause of 
growth was eating and drinking ; and that, 
when from food flesh is added to flesh, and 
bone to bone, and in the same way to the 
other parts of the body their proper elements, 
then by degrees the small bulk grows to be 
large, and so the boy becomes a man. Don't 
you think that my belief was reasonable ? 

I do, said Cebes. 

Then here is another experience for you. 
I used to feel no doubt, when I saw a tall man 
standing by a short one, that the tall man was, 
it might be, a head the taller, or, in the same 
way, that one horse was bigger than another. 
I was even clearer that ten was more than 
eight by the addition of two, and that a thing 
two cubits long was longer by half its length 
than a thing one cubit long. 

And what do you think now ? asked Cebes. 

I think that I am very far from believing 
that I know the cause of any of these things. 
Why, when you add one to one, I am not sure 
either that the one to which one is added has 
become two, or that the one added and the one 
97. to which it is added become, by the addition, 

PHALDO. 177 

two. I cannot understand how, when they are 
brought together, this union, or placing of one 
by the other, should be the cause of their 
becoming two, whereas, when they were 
separated, each of them was one, and they were 
not two. Nor, again, if you divide one into 
two, can I convince myself that this division is 
the cause of one becoming two : for then a thing 
becomes two from exactly the opposite cause. 
In the former case it was because two units 
were brought together, and the one was added 
to the other ; while now it is because they are 
separated, and the one divided from the other. 
Nor, again, can I persuade myself that I know 
how one is generated ; in short, this method 
does not show me the cause of the generation or 
destruction or existence of anything : I have in 
my own mind a confused idea of another method, 
but I cannot admit this one for a moment. 

But one day I listened to a man who said XLVI. 
that he was reading from a book of Anaxagoras, 
which affirmed that it is Mind which orders 
and is the cause of all things. I was delighted 
with this theory; it seemed to me to be right 
that Mind should be the cause of all things, 
and I thought to myself, If this is so, then 
Mind will order and arrange each thing in the 
best possible way. So if we wish to discover 
the cause of the generation or destruction or 
existence of a thing, we must discover how it 
is best for that thing to exist, or to act, or to 
be acted on. Man therefore has only to con- 
sider what is best and fittest for himself, or for 

178 PH&DO. 

other things, and then it follows necessarily 
that he will know what is bad ; for both are 
included in the same science. These reflec- 
tions made me very happy : I thought that I 
had found in Anaxagoras a teacher of the 
cause of existence after my own heart, and I 
expected that he would tell me first whether 
the earth is flat or round, and that he would 
then go on to explain to me the cause and the 
necessity, and tell me what is best, and that 
it is best for the earth to be of that shape. If 
he said that the earth was in the centre of the 
universe, I thought that he would explain that 
it was best for it to be there ; and I was pre- 
98, pared not to require any other kind of cause, 
if he made this clear to me. In the same way 
I was prepared to ask questions about the sun, 
and the moon, and the stars, about their 
relative speeds, and revolutions, and changes ; 
and to hear why it is best for each of them to 
act and be acted on as they are acted on. I 
never thought that, when he said that things 
are ordered by Mind, he would introduce any 
reason for their being as they are, except that 
they are best so. I thought that he would 
assign a cause to each thing, and a cause 
to the universe, and then would go on to 
explain to me what was best for each thing, 
and what was the common good of all. I 
would not have sold my hopes for a great deal : 
I seized the books very eagerly, and read them 
as fast as I could, in order that I might know 
what is best and what is worse. 

PH&DO. 179 

All my splendid hopes were dashed to the XLVII. 
ground, my friend, for as I went on reading I 
found that the writer made no use of Mind at 
all, and that he assigned no causes for the order 
of things. His causes were air, and ether, and 
water, and many other strange things. I thought 
that he was exactly like a man who should 
begin by saying that Socrates does all that he 
does by Mind, and who, when he tried to give 
a reason for each of my actions, should say, 
first, that I am sitting here now, because my 
body is composed of bones and muscles, and 
that the bones are hard and separated by joints, 
while the muscles can be tightened and loosened, 
and, together with the flesh, and the skin which 
holds them together, cover the bones ; and that 
therefore, when the bones are raised in their 
sockets, the relaxation and contraction of the 
muscles makes it possible for me now to bend 
my limbs, and that that is the cause of my sitting 
here with my legs bent. And in the same way 
he would go on to explain why I am talking to 
you : he would assign voice, and air, and hear- 
ing, arid a thousand other things as causes ; but 
he would quite forget to mention the real cause, 
which is that since the Athenians thought it 
right to condemn me, I have thought it right 
and just to sit here and to submit to what- 
ever sentence they may think fit to impose. 
For, by the dog of Egypt, I think that these 
muscles and bones would long ago have been 99. 
in Megara or Bceotia, prompted by their opinion 
of what is best, if I had not thought it better 

180 PH&DO. 

and more honourable to submit to whatever 
penalty the state inflicts, rather than escape by 
flight. But to call these things causes is too 
absurd ! If it were said that without bones and 
muscles and the other parts of my body I could 
not have carried my resolutions into effect, that 
would be true. But to say that they are the 
cause of what I do, and that in this way I am 
acting by Mind, and not from choice of what is 
best, would be a very loose and careless way of 
talking. It simply means that a man cannot dis- 
tinguish the real cause from that without which 
the cause cannot be the cause, and this it is, I 
think, which the multitude, groping about in the 
dark, speak of as the cause, giving it a name 
which does not belong to it. And so one man 
surrounds the earth with a vortex, and makes 
the heavens sustain it. Another represents the 
earth as a flat kneading-trough, and supports it 
on a basis of air. But they never think of 
looking for a power which is involved in these 
things being disposed as it is best for them 
to be, nor do they think that such a power 
has any divine strength: they expect to find 
an Atlas who is stronger and more immortal 
and abler to hold the world together, and 
they never for a moment imagine that it is 
the binding force of good which really binds 
and holds things together. I would most 
gladly learn the nature of that kind of cause 
from any man ; but I wholly failed either 
to discover it myself, or to learn it from any 
one else. However, I had a second string 

PffsEDO. 181 

to my bow, and perhaps, Cebes, you would 
like me to describe to you how I proceeded 
in my search for the cause. 

I should like to hear very much indeed, he 

When I had given up inquiring into real XLVIII. 
existence, he proceeded, I thought that I must 
take care that I did not suffer as people do who 
look at the sun during an eclipse. For they 
are apt to lose their eyesight, unless they look 
at the sun's reflection in water or some such 
medium. That danger occurred to me. I was 
afraid that my soul might be completely blinded 
if I looked at things with my eyes, and tried to 
grasp them with my senses. So I thought that 
I must have recourse to conceptions, 1 and 
examine the truth of existence by means of 
them. Perhaps my illustration is not quite 
accurate. I am scarcely prepared to admit that 10O. 
he who examines existence through concep- 
tions is dealing with mere reflections, any 
more than he who examines it as manifested in 
sensible objects. However I began in this way. 
I assumed in each case whatever principle I 
judged to be strongest ; and then I held as true 
whatever seemed to agree with it, whether 
in the case of the cause or of anything else, and 
as untrue, whatever seemed not to agree with 
it. I should like to explain my meaning more 
clearly : I don't think you understand me yet. 

1 The conception is the imperfect image in man's 
mind of the self -existing idea, which Plato speaks of in 
the next chapter. See ante, 74. A. seq. ; Rep. 507. A. seq. 

1 82 PHMDO. 

Indeed I do not very well, said Cebes. 
XLIX, I mean nothing new, he said ; only what I 
have repeated over and over again, both in our 
conversation to-day and at other times. I am 
going to try to explain to you the kind of cause 
at which I have worked, and I will go back to 
what we have so often spoken of, and begin 
with the assumption that there exists an absolute 
beauty, and an absolute good, and an absolute 
greatness, and so on. If you grant me this, 
and agree that they exist, I hope to be able to 
show you what my cause is, and to discover 
that the soul is immortaL 

You may assume that I grant it you, said 
Cebes ; go on with your proof. 

Then do you agree with me in what follows ? 
he asked. It appears to me that if anything 
besides absolute beauty is beautiful, it is so 
simply because it partakes of absolute beauty, 
and I say the same of all phenomena. Do you 
allow that kind of cause ? 

I do, he answered. 

Well then, he said, I no longer recognise, 
nor can I understand, these other wise causes : 
if I am told that anything is beautiful because 
it has a rich colour, or a goodly form, or the 
like, I pay no attention, for such language only 
confuses me ; and in a simple and plain, and 
perhaps a foolish way, I hold to the doctrine 
that the thing is only made beautiful by the 
presence or communication, or whatever you 
please to call it, of absolute beauty I do 
not wish to insist on the nature of the com- 

PHsEDO. 183 

munication, but what I am sure of is, that it 
is absolute beauty which makes all beautiful 
things beautiful. This seems to me to be 
the safest answer that I can give myself or 
others ; I believe that I shall never fall if I 
hold to this ; it is a safe answer to make to 
myself or any one else, that it is absolute 
beauty which makes beautiful things beautiful. 
Don't you think so ? 

I do. 

And it is size that makes large things large, 
and larger things larger, and smallness that 
makes smaller things smaller ? 


And if you were told that one man was taller 
than another by a head, and that the shorter 
man was shorter by a head, you would not 
accept the statement. You would protest that 101. 
you say only that the greater is greater by size, 
and that size is the cause of its being greater ; 
and that the less is only less by smallness, and 
that smallness is the cause of its being less. 
You would be afraid to assert that a man is 
greater or smaller by a head, lest you should 
be met by the retort, first, that the greater is 
greater, and the smaller smaller, by the same 
thing, and secondly, that the greater is greater 
by a head, which is a small thing, and that it is 
truly marvellous that a small thing should make 
a man great. Should you not be afraid of that ? 

Yes, indeed, said Cebes, laughing. 

And you would be afraid to say that ten is 
more than eight by two, and that two is the 

184 PHsEDO. 

cause of the excess ; you would say that ten 
was more than eight by number, and that 
number is the cause of the excess ? And in 
just the same way you would be afraid to say 
that a thing two cubits long was longer than 
a thing one cubit long by half its length, instead 
of by size, would you not ? 

Yes, certainly. 

Again, you would be careful not to affirm 
that, if one is added to one, the addition is the 
cause of two, or, if one is divided, that the 
division is the cause of two ? You would pro- 
test loudly that you know of no way in which a 
thing can be generated, except by participation 
in its own proper essence ; and that you can 
give no cause for the generation of two except 
participation in duality ; and that all things 
which are to be two must participate in duality, 
while whatever is to be one must participate in 
unity. You would leave the explanation of these 
divisions and additions and all such subtleties 
to wiser men than yourself. You would be 
frightened, as the saying is, at your own shadow 
and ignorance, and would hold fast to the safety 
of our principle, and so give your answer. But 
if any one should attack the principle itself, you 
would not mind him or answer him until you 
had considered whether the consequences of it 
are consistent or inconsistent, and when you 
had to give an account of the principle itself, 
you would give it in the same way, by assum- 
ing some other principle which you think the 
strongest of the higher ones, and so go on until 

PH&DO. 185 

you had reached a satisfactory resting-place. 
You would not mix up the first principle and its 
consequences in your argument, as mere dis- 
putants do, if you really wish to discover any- 
thing of existence. Such persons will very 
likely not spend a single word or thought upon 
that : for they are clever enough to be able to 
please themselves entirely, though their argu- 
ment is a chaos. But you, I think, if you are 
a philosopher, will do as I say. 1O2. 

Very true, said Simmias and Cebes together. 

Ech. And they were right, Phaedo. I think 
the clearness of his reasoning, even to the 
dullest, is quite wonderful. 

Phcedo. Indeed, Echecrates, all who were 
there thought so too. 

Ech. So do we who were not there, but who 
are listening to your story. But how did the 
argument proceed after that ? 

Phcedo. They had admitted that each of the L. 
Ideas exists, and that Phenomena take the 
names of the Ideas as they participate in them. 
Socrates, I think, then went on to ask, 

If you say this, do you not, in saying that 
Simmias is taller than Socrates and shorter 
than Phaedo, say that Simmias possesses both 
the attribute of tallness and the attribute of 
shortness ? 

I do. 

But you admit, he said, that the proposition 
that Simmias is taller than Socrates is not 
exactly true, as it is stated : Simmias is not 
really taller because he is Simmias, but because 

186 PHsEDO. 

of his height. Nor again is he taller than 
Socrates because Socrates is Socrates, but 
because of Socrates' shortness compared with 
Simmias' tallness. 


Nor is Simmias shorter than Phasdo because 
Phaedo is Phaedo, but because of Phasdo's tall- 
ness compared with Simmias' shortness. 

That is so. 

Then in this way Simmias is called both 
short and tall, when he is between the two : he 
exceeds the shortness of one by the excess of 
his height, and gives the other a tallness exceed- 
ing his own shortness. I daresay you think, 
he said, smiling, that my language is like a 
legal document for precision and formality. 
But I think that it is as I say. 

He agreed. 

I say it because I want you to think as I do. 
It seems to me not only that absolute greatness 
will never be great and small at once, but also 
that greatness in us never admits smallness, 
and will not be exceeded. One of two things 
must happen : either the greater will give way 
and fly at the approach of its opposite, the less, 
or it will perish. It will not stand its ground, 
and receive smallness, and be other than it was, 
just as I stand my ground, and receive smallness 
and remain the very same small man that I was. 
But greatness cannot endure to be small, being 
great. Just in the same way again smallness 
in us will never become nor be great : nor will 
any opposite, while it remains what it was, 

PH&DO. 187 

become or be at the same time the opposite of 
what it was. Either it goes away, or it perishes 1O3. 
in the change. 

That is exactly what I think, said Cebes. LI. 

Thereupon some one I am not sure who 

But surely is not this Just the reverse of 
what we agreed to be true earlier in the argu- 
ment, that the greater is generated from the 
less, and the less from the greater, and, in short, 
that opposites are generated from opposites ? l 
But now it seems to be denied that this can 
ever happen. 

Socrates inclined his head to the speaker 
and listened. Well and bravely remarked, he 
said : but you have not noticed the difference 
between the two propositions. What we said 
then was that a concrete thing is generated 
from its opposite : what we say now is that the 
absolute opposite can never become opposite to 
itself, either when it is in us, or when it is in 
nature. We were speaking then of things in 
which the opposites are, and we named them 
after those opposites : but now we are speaking 
of the opposites themselves, whose inherence 
gives the things their names ; and they, we say, 
will never be generated from each other. At 
the same time he turned to Cebes and asked, 
Did his objection trouble you at all, Cebes ? 

No, replied Cebes ; 1 don't feel that difficulty. 
But I will not deny that many other things 
trouble me. 

1 70 E. seq. 

i88 PHMDO. 

Then we are quite agreed on this point, he 
said. An opposite will never be opposite to 

No, never, he replied. 

LII. Now tell me again, he said ; do you agree 
with me in this ? Are there not things which 
you call heat and cold ? 


Are they the same as snow and fire ? 

No, certainly not. 

Heat is different from fire, and cold from 
snow ? 


But I suppose, as we have said, that you do 
not think that snow can ever receive heat, and 
yet remain what it was, snow and hot : it will 
either retire or perish at the approach of heat. 


And fire, again, will either retire or perish 
at the approach of cold. It will never endure 
to receive the cold and still remain what it was, 
fire and cold. 

True, he said. 

Then, it is true of some of these things, that 
not only the idea itself has a right to its name 
for all time, but that something else too, which 
is not the idea, but which has the form of 
the idea wherever it exists, shares the name. 
Perhaps my meaning will be clearer by an 
example. The odd ought always to have the 
name of odd, ought it not ? 

Yes, certainly. 

Well, my question is this. Is the odd the only 

PH&DO. 189 

thing with this name, or is there something else, 
which is not the same as the odd, but which 104. 
must always have this name, together with its 
own, because its nature is such that it is never 
separated from the odd ? There are many 
examples of what I mean : let us take one of 
them, the number three, and consider it. Do 
you not think that we must always call it by 
the name of odd, as well as by its own name, 
although the odd is not the same as the number 
three ? Yet the nature of the number three, 
and of the number five, and of half the whole 
series of numbers, is such that each of them is 
odd, though none of them is the same as the 
odd. In the same way the number two, and 
the number four, and the whole of the other 
series of numbers, are each of them always even, 
though they are not the same as the even. Do 
you agree or not ? 

Yes, of course, he replied. 

Then see what I want to show you. It is 
not only opposite ideas which appear not to 
admit their opposites ; things also which are not 
opposites, but which always contain opposites, 
seem as if they would not admit the idea which 
is opposite to the idea that they contain : they 
either perish, or retire at its approach. Shall 
we not say that the number three would perish 
or endure anything sooner than become even 
while it remains three ? 

Yes, indeed, said Cebes. 

And yet, said he, the number two is not the 
opposite of the number three. 


No, certainly not. 

Then it is not only the ideas which will not 
endure the approach of their opposites ; there 
are some other things besides which will not 
endure such an approach. 
LIII. That is quite true, he said. 

Shall we determine, if we can, what is their 
nature ? he asked. 


Will they not be those things, Cebes, which 
force whatever they are in to have always not 
its own idea only, but the idea of some opposite 
as well ? 

What do you mean ? 

Only what we were saying just now. You 
know, I think, that whatever the idea of three is 
in, is bound to be not three only, but odd as well. 


Well, we say that the opposite idea to the 
form which produces this result will never come 
to that thing. 

Indeed, no. 

But the idea of the odd produces it ? 


And the idea of the even is the opposite of 
the idea of the odd ? 


Then the idea of the even will never come 
to three ? 

Certainly not. 

So three has no part in the even ? 


Then the number three is uneven ? 

PHJEDO. 191 


So much for the definition which I under- 
took to give of things which are not opposites, 
and yet do not admit opposites ; thus we have 
seen that the number three does not admit the 
even, though it is not the opposite of the even, 
for it always brings with it the opposite of the 
even ; and the number two does not admit the 
odd, nor fire cold, and so on. Do you agree 1O5. 
with me in saying that not only does the 
opposite not admit the opposite, but also that 
whatever brings with it an opposite of anything 
to which it goes, never admits the opposite of 
that which it brings ? Let me recall this to 
you again ; there is no harm in repetition. 
Five will not admit the idea of the even, nor 
will the double of five ten admit the idea of 
the odd. It is not itself an opposite, 1 yet 
it will not admit the idea of the odd. Again, 
one and a half, a half, and the other num- 
bers of that Jcind will not admit the idea of 
the whole, nor again will such numbers as a 
third. Do you follow and agree ? 

I follow you and entirely agree with you, he 

Now begin again, and answer me, he said. LIV. 
And imitate me ; do not answer me in the terms 
of my question : I mean, do not give the old 
safe answer which I have already spoken of, for 
I see another way of safety, which is the result 
of what we have been saying. If you ask me, 
what is that which must be in the body to make 
1 Reading owe tvavriov (Schanz). 

192 PHJE.DO. 

it hot, I shall not give our old safe and stupid 
answer, and say that it is heat ; I shall make a 
more refined answer, drawn from what we have 
been saying, and reply, fire. If you ask me, what 
is that which must be in the body to make it sick, 
I shall not say sickness, but fever : and again 
to the question what is that which must be 
in number to make it odd, I shall not reply 
oddness, but unity, and so on. Do you under- 
stand my meaning clearly yet ? 

Yes, quite, he said. 

Then, he went on, tell me, what is that which 
must be in a body to make it alive ? 

A soul, he replied. 

And is this always so ? 

Of course, he said. 

Then the soul always brings life to whatever 
contains her? 

No doubt, he answered. 

And is there an opposite to life, or not ? 


What is it ? 


And we have already agreed that the soul 
cannot ever receive the opposite of what she 
brings ? 
LV. Yes, certainly we have, said Cebes. 

Well ; what name did we give to that which 
does not admit the idea of the even ? 

The uneven, he replied. 

And what do we call that which does not 
admit justice or music ? 

The unjust, and the unmusical. 

Pff^EDO. 193 

Good ; and what do we call that which does 
not admit death ? 

The immortal, he said. 

And the soul does not admit death ? 


Then the soul is immortal ? 

It is. 

Good, he said. Shall we say that this is 
proved ? What do you think ? 

Yes, Socrates, and very sufficiently. 

Well, Cebes, he said, if the odd had been 
necessarily imperishable, must not three have 1O6. 
been imperishable ? 

Of course. 

And if cold had been necessarily imperish- 
able, snow would have retired safe and unmelted, 
whenever warmth was applied to it. It would 
not have perished, and it would not have stayed 
and admitted the heat. 

True, he said. 

In the same way, I suppose, if warmth were 
imperishable, whenever cold attacked fire, the 
fire would never have been extinguished or have 
perished. It would have gone away in safety. 

Necessarily, he replied. 

And must we not say the same of the im- 
mortal ? he asked. If the immortal is imperish- 
able, the soul cannot perish when death comes 
upon her. It follows from what we have said 
that she will not ever admit death, or be in 
a state of death, any more than three, or the 
odd itself, will ever be even, or fire, or the heat 
itself which is in fire, cold. But, it may be said, 

194 PffjEDO. 

Granted that the odd does not become even at 
the approach of the even ; why, when the odd 
has perished, may not the even come into its 
place ? We could not contend in reply that it 
does not perish, for the uneven is not imperish- 
able : if we had agreed that the uneven was 
imperishable, we could have easily contended 
that the odd and three go 1 away at the approach 
of the even ; and we could have urged the 
same contention about fire and heat and the 
rest, could we not ? 

Yes, certainly. 

And now, if we are agreed that the immortal 
is imperishable, then the soul will be not im- 
mortal only, but also imperishable ; otherwise 
we shall require another argument. 

Nay, he said, there is no need of that, as far 
as this point goes ; for if the immortal, which 
is eternal, will admit of destruction, what will 

LVI. And all men would admit, said Socrates, that 
God, and the essential form of life, and all else 
that is immortal, never perishes. 

All men, indeed, he said, and, what is more, 
I think, all gods would admit that. 

Then if the immortal is indestructible, must 
not the soul, if it be immortal, be imperishable ? 

Certainly, it must. 

Then, it seems, when death attacks a man, 
his mortal part dies, but his immortal part 
retreats before death, and goes away safe and 

It seems so. 

Pff^DO. 195 

Then, Cebes, said he, beyond all question 
the soul is immortal and imperishable ; and our 1O7. 
souls will indeed exist in the other world. 

I, Socrates, he replied, have no more objec- 
tions to urge ; your reasoning has quite satisfied 
me. If Simmias, or any one else, has anything 
to say, it would be well for him to say it now : 
for I know not to what other season he can 
defer the discussion, if he wants to say or to 
hear anything touching this matter. 

No, indeed, said Simmias ; neither have I 
any further ground for doubt after what you 
have said. Yet I cannot help feeling some 
doubts still in my mind ; for the subject of our 
conversation is a vast one, and I distrust the 
feebleness of man. 

You are right, Simmias, said Socrates, and 
more than that, you must re-examine our ori- 
ginal assumptions, however certain they seem 
to you ; and when you have analysed them 
sufficiently, you will, I think, follow the argu- 
ment, as far as man can follow it ; and when 
that becomes clear to you, you will seek for 
nothing more. 

That is true he said. 

But then, my friends, said he, we must think LVII. 
of this. If it be true that the soul is immortal, 
we have to take care of her, not merely on 
account of the time which we call life, but also 
on account of all time. Now we can see how- 
terrible is the danger of neglect. For if death 
had been a release from all things, it would 
have been a godsend to the wicked ; for when 

196 PHJEDO. 

they died they would have been released with 
their souls from the body and from their own 
wickedness. But now we have found that the 
soul is immortal ; and so her only refuge and 
salvation from evil is to become as perfect and 
wise as possible. For she takes nothing with 
her to the other world but her education and 
culture ; and these, it is said, are of the greatest 
service or of the greatest injury to the dead 
man, at the very beginning of his journey 
thither. For it is said that the genius, who 
has had charge of each man in his life, proceeds 
to lead him, when he is dead, to a certain place, 
where the departed have to assemble and receive 
judgment, and then go to the world below with 
the guide who is appointed to conduct them 
thither. And when they have received their 
deserts there, and remained the appointed time, 
another guide brings them back again after 
many long revolutions of ages. So this journey 
is not as .^Lschylus describes it in the Telephus, 
1O8. where he says that ' a simple way leads to 
Hades.' But I think that the way is neither 
simple nor single ; there would have been no 
need of guides had it been so ; for no one could 
miss the way, if there were but one path. But this 
road must have many branches and many wind- 
ings, as I judge from the rites of burial on earth. 1 
The orderly and wise soul follows her leader, 
and is not ignorant of the things of that world ; 
but the soul which lusts after the body, flutters 

1 Sacrifices were offered to the gods of the lower 
world in places where three roads met. 

PHsEDO. 197 

about the body and the visible world for a long 
time, as I have said, and struggles hard and 
painfully, and at last is forcibly and reluctantly 
dragged away by her appointed genius. And 
when she comes to the place where the other . 
souls are, if she is impure and stained with evil, 
and has been concerned in foul murders, or if 
she has committed any other crimes that are 
akin to these, and the deeds of kindred souls, 
then every one shuns her and turns aside from 
meeting her, and will neither be her companion 
nor her guide, and she wanders about by herself 
in extreme distress until a certain time is com- 
pleted, and then she is borne away by force to 
the habitation which befits her. But the soul 
that has spent her life in purity and temperance 
has the gods for her companions and guides, 
and dwells in the place which befits her. There 
are many wonderful places in the earth ; and 
neither its nature nor its size is what those who 
are wont to describe it imagine, as a friend has 
convinced me. 

What do you mean, Socrates ? said Simmias. 
I have heard a great deal about the earth my- LVTII. 
self, but I have never heard the view of which 
you are convinced. I should like to hear it 
very much. 

Well, Simmias, I don't think that it needs 
the skill of Glaucus to describe it to you, but I 
think that it is beyond the skill of Glaucus to 
prove it true : I am sure that I could not do so ; 
and besides, Simmias, even if I knew how, I 
think that my life would come to an end before 

I 9 8 

the argument was finished. But there is nothing 
to prevent my describing to you what I believe 
to be the form of the earth, and its regions. 

Well, said Simmias, that will do. 

In the first place then, said he, I believe 
that the earth is a spherical body placed in the 
centre of the heavens, and that therefore it has 
no need of air or of any other force to support 
109. it : the equiformity of the heavens in all their 
parts, and the equipoise of the earth itself, 
are sufficient to hold it up. A thing in equi- 
poise placed in the centre of what is equiform 
cannot incline in any direction, either more or 
less : it will remain unmoved and in perfect 
balance. That, said he, is the first "thing that 
I believe. 

And rightly, said Simmias. 

Also, he proceeded, I think that the earth is 
of vast extent, and that we who dwell between 
the Phasis and the pillars of Heracles inhabit 
only a small portion of it, and dwell round the 
sea, like ants or frogs round a marsh ; and I 
believe that many other men dwell elsewhere 
in similar places. For everywhere on the earth 
there are many hollows of every kind of shape 
and size, into which the water and the mist and 
the air collect ; but the earth itself lies pure in 
the purity of the heavens, wherein are the stars, 
and which men who speak of these things 
commonly call ether. The water and the mist 
and the air, which collect into the hollows of 
the earth, are the sediment of it. Now we 
dwell in these hollows though we think that we 

PffsEDO. 199 

are dwelling on the surface of the earth. We 
are just like a man dwelling in the depths of 
the ocean, who thought that he was dwelling 
on its surface, and believed that the sea was 
the heaven, because he saw the sun and the 
stars through the water ; but who was too weak 
and slow ever to have reached the water's sur- 
face, and to have lifted his head from the sea, 
and come out from his depths to our world, 
and seen, or heard from one who had seen, 
how much purer and fairer our world was than 
the place wherein he dwelt. We are just in that 
state ; we dwell in a hollow of the earth, and 
think that we are dwelling on its surface ; and 
we call the air heaven, and think it to be the 
heaven wherein the stars run their courses. But 
the truth is that we are too weak and slow to 
pass through to the surface of the air. 1 For if 
any man could reach the surface, or take wings 
and fly upward, he would look up and see a 
world beyond, just as the fishes look forth from 
the sea, and behold our world. And he would 
know that that was the real heaven, and the real 
light, and the real earth, if his nature were able 110. 
to endure the sight. For this earth, and its 
stones, and all its regions have been spoilt and 
corroded, as things in the sea are corroded by 
the brine : nothing of any worth grows in the 
sea, nor, in short, is there anything therein 
without blemish, but, wherever land does exist, 
there are only caves, and sand, and vast tracts 
of mud and slime, which are not worthy even 
1 Omitting elvai ravrbv (Schanz). 

200 PH^DO. 

to be compared with the fair things of our 
world. But you would think that the things of 
that other world still further surpass the things 
of our world. I can tell you a tale, Simmias, 
about what is on the earth that lies beneath 
the heavens, which is worth your hearing. 

Indeed, Socrates, said Simmias, we should 
like to hear your tale very much. 
LIX. Well, my friend, he said, this is my tale. 
In the first place, the earth itself, if a man 
could look at it from above, is like one of those 
balls which are covered with twelve pieces of 
leather, and is marked with various colours, of 
which the colours that our painters use here 
are, as it were, samples. But there the whole 
earth is covered with them, and with others 
which are far brighter and purer ones than 
they. For part of it is purple of marvellous 
beauty, and part of it is golden, and the white 
of it is whiter than chalk or snow. It is made 
up of the other colours in the same way, and 
also of colours which are more beautiful than 
any that we have ever seen. The very hollows 
in it, that are* filled with water and air, have 
themselves a kind of colour, and glisten amid 
the diversity of the others, so that its form 
appears as one unbroken and varied surface. 
And what grows in this fair earth its trees 
and flowers and fruit is more beautiful than 
what grows with us in the same proportion : 
and so likewise are the hills and the stones 
in their smoothness and transparency and 
colour : the pebbles which we prize in this 

PH^EDO. 201 

world, our cornelians, and jaspers, and emeralds, 
and the like, are but fragments of them : but 
there all the stones are as our precious stones, 
and even more beautiful still. The reason of 
this is that they are pure, and not corroded 
or spoilt, as ours are, with the decay and brine 
from the sediment that collects in the hollows, 
and brings to the stones and the earth and 
all animals and plants deformity and disease. 
All these things, and with them gold and silver 
and the like, adorn the real earth : and they 11L 
are conspicuous from their multitude and size, 
and the many places where they are found; so 
that he who could behold it would be a happy 
man. Many creatures live upon it ; and there 
are men, some dwelling inland, and others round 
the air, as we dwell round the sea, and others 
in islands encircled by the air, which lie near 
the continent. In a word, they use the air as 
we use water and the sea, and the ether as we 
use the air. The temperature of their seasons 
is such that they are free from disease, and live 
much longer than we do ; and in sight, and 
hearing, and smell, and the other senses, they 
are as much more perfect than we, as air is 
purer than water, and ether than air. Moreover 
they have sanctuaries and temples of the gods, 
in which the gods dwell in very truth ; they 
hear the voices and oracles of the gods, and 
see them in visions, and have intercourse with 
them face to face : and they see the sun and 
moon and stars as they really are ; and in other 
matters their happiness is of a piece with this. 

202 PH^DO. 

LX. That is the nature of the earth as a whole, 
and of what is upon it ; and everywhere 
on its globe there are many regions in 
the hollows, some of them deeper and more 
open than that in which we dwell ; and others 
also deeper, but with narrower mouths ; and 
others again shallower and broader than ours. 
All these are connected by many channels 
beneath the earth, some of them narrow and 
others wide ; and there are passages, by which 
much water flows from one of them to another, 
as into basins, and vast and never-failing rivers 
of both hot and cold water beneath the earth, 
and much fire, and great rivers of fire, and 
many rivers of liquid mud, some clearer and 
others more turbid, like the rivers of mud 
which precede the lava stream in Sicily, and 
the lava stream itself. These fill each hollow 
in turn, as each stream flows round to it. 
All of them are moved up and down by a 
certain oscillation which is in the earth, and 
which is produced by a natural cause of 
the following kind. One of the chasms in 
the earth is larger than all the others, and 

112. pierces right through it, from side to side. 
Homer describes it in the words 

' Far away, where is the deepest depth beneath the 
earth.' 1 

And elsewhere he and many others of the poets 
have called it Tartarus. All the rivers flow into 
this chasm, and out of it again ; and each of 

1 //. viii. 14. 

PH&DO. 203 

them comes to be like the soil through which it 
flows. The reason why they all flow into and 
out of the chasm is that the liquid has no bottom 
or base to rest on : it oscillates and surges up 
and down, and the air and wind around it do 
the same : for they accompany it in its passage 
to the other side of the earth, and in its return ; 
and just as in breathing the breath is always in 
process of being exhaled and inhaled, so there 
the wind, oscillating with the water, produces 
terrible and irresistible blasts as it comes in and 
goes out. When the water retires with a rush 
to what we call the lower parts of the earth, it 
flows through to the regions of those streams, 
and fills them, as if it were pumped into them. 
And again, when it rushes back hither from 
those regions, it fills the streams here again, and 
then they flow through the channels of the earth, 
and make their way to their several places, and 
create seas, and lakes, and rivers, and springs. 
Then they sink once more into the earth, and 
after making, some a long circuit through many 
regions, and some a shorter one through fewer, 
they fall again into Tartarus, some at a point 
much lower than that at which they rose, and 
others only a little lower ; but they all flow in 
below their point of issue. And some of them 
burst forth again on the side on which they 
entered ; others again on the opposite side ; 
and there are some which completely encircle 
the earth, twining round it, like snakes, once 
or perhaps oftener, and then fall again into 
Tartarus, as low down as they can. They can 

204 PHMDO. 

descend as far as the centre of the earth from 
either side but no farther. Beyond that point 
on either side they would have to flow uphill. 
LXI. These streams are many, and great, and 
various ; but among them all are four, of which 
the greatest and outermost, which flows round 
the whole of the earth, is called Oceanus. 
Opposite Oceanus, and flowing in the reverse 
direction, is Acheron, which runs through 
113. desert places, and then under the earth until it 
reaches the Acherusian lake, whither the souls 
of the dead generally go, and after abiding there 
the appointed time, which for some is longer, 
and for others shorter, are sent forth again to 
be born as animals. The third river rises 
between these two, and near its source falls 
into a vast and fiery region, and forms a lake 
larger than our sea, seething with water and 
mud. Thence it goes forth turbid and muddy 
round the earth, and after many windings comes 
to the end of the Acherusian lake, but it does 
not mingle with the waters of the lake ; and 
after many windings more beneath the earth, 
it falls into the lower part of Tartarus. This 
is the river that men name Pyriphlegethon ; 
and portions of it are discharged in the lava 
streams, wherever they are found on the earth. 
The fourth river is on the opposite side : it is 
said to fall first into a terrible and savage 
region, of which the colour is one dark blue. 
It is called the Stygian stream, and the lake 
which its waters create is called Styx. After 
falling into the lake and receiving strange 

Pff^DO. 205 

powers in -its waters, it sinks into the earth, 
and runs winding about in the opposite direc- 
tion to Pyriphlegethon, which it meets in the 
Acherusian lake from the opposite side. Its 
waters too mingle with no other waters : it 
flows round in a circle and falls into Tartarus 
opposite to Pyriphlegethon. Its name, the poets 
say, is Cocytus. 

Such is the nature of these regions ; and LXII. 
when the dead come to the place whither each 
is brought by his genius, sentence is first passed 
on them according as their lives have been good 
and holy, or not. Those whose lives seem to 
have been neither very good nor very bad, go 
to the river Acheron, and embarking on the 
vessels which they find there, proceed to the 
lake. There they dwell, and are punished for 
the crimes which they have committed, and are 
purified and absolved ; and for their good deeds 
they are rewarded, each according to his deserts. 
But all who appear to be incurable from the 
enormity of their sins those who have com- 
mitted many and great sacrileges, and foul and 
lawless murders, or other crimes like these 
are hurled down to Tartarus by the fate which 
is their due, whence they never come forth 
again. Those who have committed sins which 
are great, but not too great for atonement, such, 
for instance, as those who have used violence 
towards a father or a mother in wrath, and then 
repented of it for the rest of their lives, or who 
have committed homicide in some similar way, 114. 
have also to descend into Tartarus : but then 


when they have been there a year, a wave casts 
them forth, the homicides by Cocytus, and the 
parricides and matricides by Pyriphlegethon ; 
and when they have been carried as far as the 
Acherusian lake they cry out and call on those 
whom they slew or outraged, and beseech and 
pray that they may be allowed to come out into 
the lake, and be received as comrades. And if 
they prevail, they come out, and their sufferings 
cease ; but if they do not, they are carried back 
to Tartarus, and thence into the rivers again, 
and their punishment does not end until they 
have prevailed on those whom they wronged : 
such is the sentence pronounced on them by 
their judges. But such as have been pre- 
eminent for holiness in their lives are set free 
and released from this world, as from a prison : 
they ascend to their pure habitation, and dwell 
on the earth's surface. And those of them 
who have sufficiently purified themselves with 
philosophy, live thenceforth without bodies, and 
proceed to dwellings still fairer than these, 
which are not easily described, and of which I 
have not time to speak now. 1 But for all these 
reasons, Simmias, we must leave nothing un- 
done that we may obtain virtue and wisdom in 
this life. Noble is the prize, and great the 
LXIII. A man of sense will not insist that these 

1 The account of the rewards and punishments of the 
next world given in Rep. x. 614 B. seq. , the story of Er 
the son of Armenius, is worth comparing with the pre- 
ceding passage. 

PH&DO. 207 

things are exactly as I have described them. 
But I think that he will believe that something 
of the kind is true of the soul and her habita- 
tions, seeing that she is shown to be immortal, 
and that it is worth his while to stake everything 
on this belief. The venture is a fair one, and 
he must charm his doubts with spells like these. 
That is why I have been prolonging the fable 
all this time. For these reasons a man should 
be of good cheer about his soul, if in his life 
he has renounced the pleasures and adorn- 
ments of the body, because they were nothing 
to him, and because he thought that they 
would do him not good but harm ; and if he 
has instead earnestly pursued the pleasures 
of learning, and adorned his soul with the 
adornment of temperance, and justice, and 
courage, and freedom, and truth, which be- 115. 
longs to her, and is her own, and so awaits 
his journey to the other world, in readiness 
to set forth whenever fate calls him. You, 
Simmias and Cebes, and the rest will set forth 
at some future day, each at his own time. But 
me now, as a tragic poet would say, fate calls 
at once ; and it is time for me to betake myself 
to the bath. I think that I had better bathe 
before I drink the poison, and not give the 
women the trouble of washing my dead body. 

When he had finished speaking Crito said, LXIV. 
Be it so, Socrates. But have you any com- 
mands for your friends or for me about your 
children, or about other things ? How shall 
we serve you best ? 

208 PHMDO. 

Simply by doing what I always tell you, Crito. 
Take care of your own selves, and you will 
serve me and mine and yourselves in all that 
you do, even though you make no promises now. 
But if you are careless of your own selves, and 
will not follow the path of life which we have 
pointed out in our discussions both to-day and 
at other times, all your promises now, however 
profuse and earnest they are, will be of no 

We will do our best, said Crito. But how 
shall we bury you ? 

As you please, he answered ; only you must 
catch me first, and not let me escape you. 
And then he looked at us with a smile and said, 
My friends, I cannot convince Crito that I am 
the Socrates who has been conversing with you, 
and arranging his arguments in order. He 
thinks that I am the body which he will pre- 
sently see a corpse, and he asks how he is to 
bury me. All the arguments which I have 
used to prove that I shall not remain with you 
after I have drunk the poison, but that I shall 
go away to the happiness of the blessed, with 
which I tried to comfort you and myself, have 
been thrown away on him. Do you therefore 
be my sureties to him, as he was my surety at 
the trial, but in a different way. He was surety 
for me then that I would remain ; but you 
must be my sureties to him that I shall go away 
when I am dead, and not remain with you : 
then he will feel my death less ; and when he 
sees my body being burnt or buried, he will not 

PffsEDO. 209 

be grieved because he thinks that I am suffering 
dreadful things : and at my funeral he will not 
say that it is Socrates whom he is laying out, 
or bearing to the grave, or burying. For, dear 
Crito, he continued, you must know that to use 
words wrongly is not only a fault in itself; it 
also creates evil in the soul. You must be of 
good cheer, and say that you are burying my 
body : and you must bury it as you please, and 116. 
as you think right. 

With these words he rose and went into LXV. 
another room to bathe himself : Crito went with 
him and told us to wait. So we waited, talking 
of the argument, and discussing it, and then 
again dwelling on the greatness of the calamity 
which had fallen upon us : it seemed as if we 
were going to lose a father, and to be orphans 
for the rest of our life. When he had bathed, 
and his children had been brought to him, he 
had two sons quite little, and one grown up, 
and the women of his family were come, he 
spoke with them in Crito's presence, arid gave 
them his last commands ; then he sent the 
women and children away, and returned to us. 
By that time it was near the hour of sunset, for 
he had been a long while within. When he 
came back to us from the bath he sat down, 
but not much was said after that. Presently the 
servant of the Eleven came and stood before 
him and said, ' I know that I shall not find you 
unreasonable like other men, Socrates. They 
are angry with me and curse me when I bid 
them drink the poison because the authorities 

210 PH^EDO. 

make me do it. But I have found you all along 
the noblest and gentlest and best man that has 
ever come here ; and now I am sure that you 
will not be angry with me, but with those who 
you know are to blame. And so farewell, and 
try to bear what must be as lightly as you can ; 
you know why I have come.' With that he 
turned away weeping, and went out. 

Socrates looked up at him, and replied, Fare- 
well : I will do as you say. Then he turned to 
us and said, How courteous the man is ! And 
the whole time that I have been here, he has 
constantly come in to see me, and sometimes 
he has talked to me, and has been the best of 
men ; and now, how generously he weeps for 
me ! Come, Crito, let us obey him : let the 
poison be brought if it is ready ; and if it is not 
ready, let it be prepared. 

Crito replied : Nay, Socrates, I think that 
the sun is still upon the hills ; it has not set. 
Besides, I know that other men take the poison 
quite late, and eat and drink heartily, and even 
enjoy the company of their chosen friends, after 
the announcement has been made. So do not 
hurry ; there is still time. 

Socrates replied : And those whom you speak 
of, Crito, naturally do so ; for they think that they 
will be gainers by so doing. And I naturally 
shall not do so ; for I think that I should gain 
117. nothing by drinking the poison a little later, 
but my own contempt for so greedily saving up 
a life which is already spent. So do not refuse 
to do as I say. 

PH&DO. 211 

Then Crito made a. sign to his slave who was LXVL 
standing by ; and the slave went out, and after 
some delay returned with the man who was to 
give the poison, carrying it prepared in a cup. 
When Socrates saw him, he asked, You under- 
stand these things, my good sir, what have I 
to do? 

You have only to drink this, he replied, and 
to walk about until your legs feel heavy, and 
then lie down ; and it will act of itself. With 
that he handed the cup to Socrates, who took it 
quite cheerfully, Echecrates, without trembling, 
and without any change of colour or of feature, 
and looked up at the man with that fixed glance 
of his, and asked, What say you to making a 
libation from this draught ? May I, or not ? 
We only prepare so much as we think sufficient, 
Socrates, he answered. I understand, said 
Socrates. But I suppose that I may, and must, 
pray to the gods that my journey hence may be 
prosperous : that is my prayer ; be it so. With 
these words he put the cup to his lips and drank 
the poison quite calmly and cheerfully. Till then 
most of us had been able to control our grief 
fairly well ; but when we saw him drinking, and 
then the poison finished, we could do so no 
longer: my tears came fast in spite of myself, and 
I covered my face and wept for myself : it was 
not for him, but at my own misfortune in losing 
such a friend. Even before that Crito had been 
unable to restrain his tears, and had gone away ; 
and Apollodorus, who had never once ceased 
weeping the whole time, burst into a loud cry, 

212 PHMDO. 

and made us one and all break down by his 
sobbing and grief, except only Socrates himself. 
What are you doing, my friends ? he exclaimed. 
I sent away the women chiefly in order that 
they might not offend in this way ; for I have 
heard that a man should die in silence. So 
calm yourselves and bear up. When we heard 
that we were ashamed, and we ceased from 
weeping. But he walked about, until he said 
that his legs were getting heavy, and then he 
lay down on his back, as he was told. And 
the man who gave the poison began to examine 
his feet and legs, from time to time : then he 
pressed his foot hard, and asked if there was 
any feeling in it ; and Socrates said, No : and 
118. then his legs, and so higher and higher, and 
showed us that he was cold and stiff. And 
Socrates felt himself, and said that when it 
came to his heart, he should be gone. He was 
already growing cold about the groin, when he 
uncovered his face, which had been covered, 
and spoke for the last time. Crito, he said, I 
owe a cock to Asclepius ; do not forget to pay 
it. 1 It shall be done, replied Crito. Is there 
anything else that you wish ? He made no 
answer to this question ; but after a short 
interval there was a movement, and the man 

1 These words probably refer to the offering usually 
made to Asclepius on recovery from illness. Death is 
a release from the ' fitful fever of life. ' See, for instance, 
66 B. seq. , 67 C. Another explanation is to make 
the word refer to the omission of a trifling religious 

PHsEDO. 213 

uncovered him, and his eyes were fixed. Then 
Crito closed his mouth and his eyes. 

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend, 
a man, I think, who was the wisest and justest, 
and the best man that I have ever known. 


Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh. 

(Solfcen irreaeur^ Series, 

Uniformly printed, with Vignette Titles by Sir J. E. MILLAIS, Sir NOEL 
engraved on SteeL la uniform binding. Pot 8vo. 2S. 6d. each, net. 

and arranged, with Notes, by Professor F. T. PALGRAVB. Large 
Paper Edition. 8vo, IDS. 6d. net. Large Type Edition. Crown 8vo. 
IDS. 6d. 

Selected by Professor F. T. PALGRAVE. 


POEMS OF WORDSWORTH. Chosen and Edited by MATTHEW ^ 
ARNOLD. Large Paper Edition. 8vo. IDS. 6d. net. 

POETRY OF BYRON. Chosen and arranged by MATTHEW ARNOLD. ___ 
Large Paper Edition. 95. 

POEMS OF SHELLEY. Edited by S. A. BROOKE. Large Pa^er ^\- 
Edition. 8vo. 125. 6d. 

POEMS BY ROBERT SOUTHEY. Chosen and arranged by EDWARD _i- 



CHRYSOMELA. A Selection from the Lyrical Poems of Robert 

Herrick. By Professor F. T. PALGRAVE. 


LYRIC LOVE : An Anthology. Edited by WILLIAM WATSON. -- 
THE SONG BOOK. Words and Tunes selected and arranged by 


THE FAIRY BOOK. Selected by Mrs. CRAIK. . 

by Professor F. T. PALGRAVE. 


by Mrs. OLIPHANT. 
LETTERS OF WILLIAM COWPER. Edited, with Introduction, , 

by Rev. W. BENHAM. -f" 



Selected by C. F. ALEXANDER. 


(Bolfcen {Treasury Series, continued. 

In uniform binding. Pot 8vo. 25. 6d. each, net. 



LA LYRE FRANAISE. Selected and arranged, with Notes, by G. 

DEUTSCHE LYRIK. The Golden Treasury of the best German 

and Lyrical Poems. Selected by Dr. BUCHHEIM. 

BALLADEN UND ROMANZEN. Being a Selection of the best 
German Ballads and Romances. Edited, with Introduction and 
Notes, by Dr. BUCHHEIM. 
-"^THEOCRITUS, BION, AND MOSCHUS. Rendered into English 

Prose by ANDREW LANG. Large Paper Edition, os. 
^7, THE REPUBLIC OF PLATO. Translated by LL. DAVIES, M.A., 
^^- and D. J. VAUGHAN, Large Paper Edition. 8vo. ios. 6d. net. 

-Y" phron, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Plato. Translated by F. J. 
-****" CHURCH. 

.--*" Translation, by J. WRIGHT. 

With Notes and Glossarial Index by W. ALOIS WRIGHT, M.A. 
Large Paper Edition. 8vo. ios. 6d. net. 
THE CAVALIER AND HIS LADY. Selections from the Works of 

the First Duke and Duchess of Newcastle. With an Introductory 


Edition, 8vo. ios. 6d. net. 








Translated by J. JACOBS. 






Being an Edition with Briefer Notes of "The Psalms, Chronologic- 
ally Arranged by Four Friends." 

Preface by C. KINGSLEY. 


University of California 


305 De Neve Drive - Parking Lot 17 Box 951388 


Return this material to the library from which it was borrowed. 


UCSD Libr. 


000 675 705 8